Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 10:31am
The Falcons need to upgrade in the backfield and that's likely to start with the release of veteran Steven Jackson. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan brings with him an emphasis on the outside zone-blocking scheme and one-cut-and-go mentality for the running backs. The Falcons will benefit from having younger legs in such a scheme. Don't discount second-year player Devonta Freeman, who is eager to take the next step and could thrive in the system. But the Falcons need more bodies, and Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith are headed to free agency. Keep an eye on Justin Forsett, who also is bound for free agency. Forsett thrived in the zone-blocking scheme the past season en route to a career-high 1,266 rushing yards. And Forsett is represented by the same agent who represents Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
Falcons RBs Devonta Freeman and Jacquizz Rodgers took over against the New Orleans Saints after Steven Jackson left the game with a quadriceps injury. Freeman, a fourth-round pick from Florida State, provided some big plays, including a 31-yard touchdown run.
Rodgers will likely get the bulk of the carries because he’s still considered a better pass protector.
Freeman has been significantly better but admits that he's not good enough in pass protection. Rodgers may start, but we expect that Freeman will get enough touches to make him a worthwhile play in daily formats.
Friday, December 26, 2014, 6:53pm
Falcons RB Steven Jackson (quadricep, questionable) missed practice all week and is questionable for Week 17. Jackson is not expected to play against Carolina. Look for Devonta Freeman and Jacquizz Rodgers to form a committee. Per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Rodgers is expected to get the start, but Freeman has far more upside. He turned eight touches into 84 yards and a touchdown last week after Jackson left with an injury.
Monday, December 22, 2014, 3:47pm
Falcons coach Mike Smith said Monday that RB Steven Jackson was having further tests done to evaluate the injury, which means we’ll be waiting until later in the week for an idea about whether or not he’ll play against Carolina.
Devonta Freeman was the most effective back in New Orleans, running five times for 36 yards and a touchdown and catching three passes for 48 more yards.
Early reports after the game said the injury wasn't all that serious and Jackson could be available for Week 17. For now, that remains up in the air. Jacquizz Rodgers got a bulk of the carries but Freeman has more fantasy potential.
An ESPN report on Monday said the Falcons don't believe the injury is serious and that Jackson will play in Week 17. Jacquizz Rodgers had 11 carries but collected just 29 yards. Devonte Freeman ran for a 5-36-1 line and added three catches for 48 yards. The Falcons play for the NFC South title against the Panthers next week. If Jackson can't go Freeman and Rodgers would likely split up the workload with Freeman having more upside.
Smith suffered the injury while on the punt-coverage unit early in the fourth quarter. He had to be helped off the field and was on crutches following the game.
The loss of Smith takes away one of the Falcons' most dangerous offensive weapons. He currently is tied with Roddy White for the team lead with five touchdowns. Smith also was one of the Falcons' best special teams players.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 9:57am
If the Falcons can make those blocks, Antone Smith has shown that can rip off those big plays. Freeman showed his power in the opener against Saints when he barreled through defenders to pick up an extra five yards after contact.
Coach Mike Smith seem to regret that neither player received in opportunities in 24-10 the mauling by the Bengals.
“We did not get (through) rotation because we had some three-and-outs,” Smith said. “Rotating our backs didn’t go like it did in the first week. That’s something that again, when you’ve got four running backs it’s a challenge every game to get the numbers that you’d like for them to have.”
It's just one opinion but his point makes a lot of sense in a copycat league. We'll see if the Falcons take his advice... The team has four backs with some potential, however Smith and Freeman are younger guys with a lot of ability who are trying to get more touches behind vets Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers. So far Jackson has 23 carries for 98 yards and Rodgers 11 carries for 57 yards and a TD, but both backs haven't been involved in the passing game. Meanwhile, Smith and Freeman have combined for 7 catches and 113 yards.
The Falcons used such a four-WR alignment on 19 plays in Week 1. The eight plays run in the setup on third down included a 35-yard connection between Matt Ryan and Hester on third-and-8 on a drive that resulted in White's 2-yard touchdown catch. On the seven pass plays in 10 personnel on first down, the Falcons gained an average of 13.8 yards per play.
Among the four plays using four wides on second down was a 23-yard Ryan to Douglas connection on second-and-7 that set up Jacquizz Rodgers' 17-yard touchdown run. Another was a 17-yard run by Steven Jackson up the middle on second-and-15, proving that spreading out the defense can open things up for the run. Such a concept might be an effective strategy for the Falcons going into Week 2, particularly with their foursome of capable running backs.
"It worked really good," OC Dirk Koetter said. "I have never in my career been much of 10-personnel guy. Obviously, when we had Tony [Gonzalez] here, our philosophy was it's tough to put a fourth wide receiver in and take the best tight end to ever play off the field. The acquiring of Devin Hester and the fact that Devin has done such a good job of assimilating himself into the system, now we do have our explosive wide receivers.
"We started with a very small package. It's going to grow all the time."
Monday, September 8, 2014, 10:56am
Jackson was just ahead of Jacquizz Rodgers, 42-38 in snaps. Jackson had 13 total touches to Rodgers 7, but it was Rodgers who had a touchdown. Also of note was RB Devonte Freeman, perhaps getting eased in a bit, playing on just five snaps but getting the ball on four of them: two carries and two receptions for 33 total yards. RB Antone Smith also had a 54 yard TD reception. So while Jackson got the most snaps, it was the other backs who seemed to stand out...
Jackson, the projected starter, had his helmet, a sign that he was practicing. He has been out since suffering a right hamstring injury during practice on July 29.
Smith said he wouldn’t rule out playing Jackson in the exhibition finale on Aug. 28 at Jacksonville, though Smith’s usual practice is to sit his starters for that game.
The team has said all along that Jackson would play Week 1. With a recent injury history, he makes for a risky pick but should be available in the middle rounds of drafts if you want to take a shot. Jacquizz Rodgers has started all three exhibition games but never really took over the RB1 role with Jackson out last year. Rookie Devonta Freeman has been a popular pick as a handcuff to Jackson. Either way, owners should either draft Jackson as depth or have a backup plan...
Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 8:14pm
Interesting because Smith and Freeman have played well in camp and in the team's only preseason game.
As starter Steven Jackson continues to miss time with a left hamstring injury, Smith showed impressive big-play potential in the Falcons' 16-10 win over Miami on Friday night.
Smith's 35-yard gain after a short catch and 76-yard touchdown run were negated by penalties, but the big plays will be remembered by coach Mike Smith.
The opportunity at running back may continue to grow. Rookie fourth-round pick Devonta Freeman left Monday's practice with an injury.
The injuries are starting to pile up at RB. Although Freeman's injury is unknown at this time, it isn't believed to be serious. Smith has a chance to shine as Rodgers hasn't seemed to step up when given the chance.
Monday, August 11, 2014, 7:39pm
Falcons rookie running back Devonta Freeman left the field with an undisclosed injury and did not return to practice on Monday.
“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “He left the field and was not able to come back out. I don’t think it’s anything serious. But we’ll know a little more in the next hour or two.”
Freeman, a fourth-round draft pick, accounted for 107 total yards on 11 touches in the exhibition opener against Miami. He rushed for 50 yards on 10 carries and caught a pass for 57 yards.
The Falcons are already hurting at the running back position. Steven Jackson, who’s listed No. 1 on the depth chart, has been out with a left hamstring injury.
With Jackson out and Freeman possibly slowed, Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith, Josh Vaughan and Jerome Smith are the remaining healthy running backs on the roster.
Saturday, August 9, 2014, 10:09am
Falcons HC Mike Smith liked how quarterback Matt Ryan and the first-team offense marched down the field on a 15-play, 77-yard drive on the Falcons' first possession, ending with Jacquizz Rodgers' 2-yard touchdown run.
"Like the way our first-team offense came back and answered the opening drive that the Dolphins were able to put together," Smith said. "I believe it was maybe 15 official plays, maybe 18 snaps. A nine-minute drive that ended in a touchdown."
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