So, we continue on with our yearly dissection of our Falcons roster. I know Part I-Quarterbacks, wasn’t much to chew on, but it gave us a base topic to discuss for a few minutes. I’m afraid the next section won’t give that much more in the way of discussions, or will it? Have patience my fellow ‘Cagers”, the juicy stuff is coming. I was originally going to post this next part with the QB’s, but I felt it went a little long. So, without further adieu, I give you…..
Part II – Runningbacks and Fullbacks
-Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Terron Ward, Gus Johnson
Devonta Freeman-under contract through 2017 season, $721,106 cap charge
Cut pre 6/1-$242,212 dead money, $478,894 cap savings
Cut post 6/1-$121,106 dead money, $600,000 cap savings
Trade-same as cut pre 6/1
Devonta gave us a reason to talk this season. Passionate running, good receiving, strong, quick cuts like we haven’t seen around here in quite some time. Good receiver out of the backfield with the exception of a few drops where he was trying to run before he caught the ball. This is something I’m sure can and will be fixed headed into next season. Did have a couple of fumbles, which in and of itself aren’t a huge problem. But like many of the Falcons turnovers this year, they were generally untimely. If not for Shanahan’s mid-season brain fart where we completely abandoned the running game, and a couple of minor injuries that saw him start the season as the #2, and a mid season concussion, Freeman could have had an even bigger year. There’s no doubt Freeman can be a productive back for the Falcons for a long time. See SW, I told you he could do it. And you had your doubts. Shame on you.(fun).
Tevin Coleman-under contract through 2018 season, $753,811 cap charge
Cut pre 6/1-$558,933 dead money, $194,878 cap savings
Cut post 6/1-$186,311 dead money, $567,500 cap savings
Trade-same as pre 6/1
Lots of talent, lots to learn. There is no doubt Tevin has ability. Faster than Freeman, though not as quick. Bigger than Freeman, but doesn’t seem to run with as much power. Needs to learn how to carry and hold onto the ball. Started the season as the #1 RB, mainly due to a hamstring injury to Devonta. Looked really good in games #1 and #2. But then Tevin got injured himself and Freeman exploded. When Tevin did get back on the field, he had trouble holding onto the ball. Then he knocked himself out in the shower and missed the final 2 games under the concussion protocol. We never really got to see what Tevin could do as a receiver, after hearing about it all through mini-camp and summer workouts. Tevin should be even better in year#2, and maybe we’ll get to see more of that 1-2 punch we were told about, rather than a 1 and then 2-3 carries for the other guy. Holding on to the ball would go a long way toward that.
Terron Ward-under contract through 2017 season, $525,333 cap charge
Cut pre 6/1-$667 dead money, $524,666 cap savings
Cut post 6/1-$333 dead money, $525,000 cap savings
Trade-same as cut pre 6/1
What was their not to like about Ward? Anytime an UDFA can make a 53 man roster and dress out and contribute during games, you know you have a football player. From the moment he laid out Vic Beasley during training camp all eyes were focused on what else could this guy do?(though as it would turn out, blocking Vic Beasley early on wasn’t all that difficult). He has a running style that fits our spread running attack, has decent hands out of the backfield and currently is the best blocking RB we have on our roster. After a full season in our system, Ward should only become more valuable.
Gus Johnson-futures contract, details unknown at this time.
I have to admit, when we originally signed Gus to the practice squad, I had to google him to find out what he was about, and I was so impressed, I had to google him again to write this bit. He played his college ball at Stephen F Austin where he was the 2014 conference player of the year. He’s got good size at 5’10”, 215lbs. And he’s strong, as he did 26 reps of 225lbs at last season’s scouting combine. But he is slower than you’d generally like. He was signed by the Cowboys as an UDFA last season and led the Cowboys in rushing during the pre-season. Might be looked at as short yardage back, though from what I’ve read, he’s more of a tough, keep your legs churning runner than a pile mover. Also, doesn’t appear to offer much in the way of receptions out of the backfield or protecting the QB. But we shall see.
Analysis: We certainly got our money’s worth out of our RB’s last season. After spending $4 million a year on a washed up Steven Jackson, we got triple the return out of Devonta, Tevin and Ward, while spending less than $2 million total on the 3 of them. All are young, cheap, under contract for at least 2 more seasons, and should only improve with time. With the right pieces around them, our running game, which has long been a weak spot of our Falcons, could become the team’s strength.
My Conclusion: Freeman’s good, there’s no doubt about that. The jury is still out on Tevin as injuries and inconsistent handling of the ball led to limited opportunities. Terron Ward is my wild card here. With Devonta and Tevin, we were supposed to have this 1-2 backfield punch that would keep both backs fresh all game and all season without having to change up our offensive play calling one bit. But that never materialized, and Devonta proved he could carry 15-20 times a game along with 4-5 catches a game. Now I’m not so sure there is anything Tevin can do to change the type of rotation we saw towards the back half of the year. Terron Ward to me is a more than adequate back up if we keep the end of the season status quo. We don’t need 2 starting caliber backs when we have so many holes on this team. Yes, I know, what if Freeman gets injured? After we get a strong 22, we can worry about the next 22. Having a strong backup RB is a luxury item that we might not be able to afford right now. Tevin was a 3rd round pick, doesn’t have many miles on him, and has a skill set that coaches look for, and is currently a bargain cap wise. One season with a couple of untimely fumbles isn’t going to scare anybody off. However, if he has another season like this, and we decide we can’t use him, we probably won’t be able to get anything for him either. And let me throw this out there, if Tevin is all that, and he gets his fumblitis under control, would you look to move Freeman, who is just as young and inexpensive, but now has a Pro Bowl season under his belt? You could gain a lot more in return for Freeman than you could Coleman. Like I said, way too many holes not to be looking under every rock to make the TEAM better. I would absolutely be shopping Tevin, and if I believed Tevin could carry the load, I would be shopping Freeman. Personally here, I would keep Freeeman(known), unload Tevin(unknown) for the right price, I wouldn’t just give him away, and have Ward as my #1 backup. Trading Tevin, I would look to bring in at least 2 more backs, either through FA or UDFA. We don’t need to waste a draft pick here unless something is available with our 7th rounder. And I would look for a big back that can move the pile when we need it moved.
Prediction: There’s no way the gutless wonders that are the Falcons FO look to move either Devonta or Tevin. I expect us to sign a couple UDFA’s, have them in camp as bodies, and go into 2016 with the same 3 RB’s as we had in 2015. Which isn’t a bad thing.
–Patrick DiMarco, Collin Mooney
Patrick DiMarco-under contract through 2016 season, $797,500 cap charge
cut pre 6/1-$37,500 dead money, $760,000 cap space
cut post 6/1-same
What a difference a year makes!!! Last season everyone talked about what a waste it was having this guy around. New season, new scheme, BAM!! Which is the sound most defenders heard when DiMarco laid the wood on them. Offers nothing as far as carrying the ball, but proved to be an adequate receiver out of the back field. His biggest asset, however, is his run blocking ability. Doesn’t get to show much of his pass blocking ability as we usually pass out of one back set. If not for the mid season losing streak and abandonment of the running game, DiMarco might have been a Pro Bowler this season.
Collin Mooney-under contract through 2016, $525,000 cap charge
cut pre 6/1-$0 dead money, $525,000 cap savings
cut post 6/1-same
This guy was the flavor of the month during pre-season. His ability to catch and run with the ball had us all thinking of what life would be like without DiMarco. Then Mooney got injured in the last pre-season game. Put on IR, season gone. We liked what we saw out of him, and I’m sure his play and presence had a lot to do with DiMarco’s improved play.
Analysis: All’s good! Nothing to see here! Move along please! In all seriousness, this is one position on the Falcons we don’t have to worry about. Whether it’s DiMarco or Mooney, we should be in good shape.
My Conclusion: I said last year, that even though DiMarco didn’t offer much, he was the best we had and I was fine with him for another season. Well, different year, nothing’s changed. I’m perfectly happy with DiMarco as our lead back and wouldn’t change a thing. I like Mooney too, and if there’s a way to keep both on the 53, then I do it. We’ve seen in the past what can happen if you only have 1 FB on your team and he goes down with an injury. The FB position is becoming more and more a thing of the past, and I wish it weren’t. Some of my favorite players were FB’s. William Andrews, Larry Csonka, Andra Franklin to name a few. Anyway, both will be in the last year of their contracts, but this isn’t a position where you need to draft the “next in line” for the future.
Prediction: Falcons stand pat here. Maybe bring in an UDFA for more camp bodies and who knows what you’ll find. But they will be plenty happy going into next season with DiMarco and/or Mooney.