Widely respected Falcons running backs coach Bobby Turner hopes to decrease Devonta Freeman’s carries in 2016.
“It’s about growth,” Turner told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Free had a good year, but I’m expecting even a better year. Well, you’re saying, how can it be better? It can be even better with less carries or less catches because I’d obviously like to get Tevin (Coleman) more involved and that also keeps Free fresher.”
Freeman, who went to the Pro Bowl, rushed for 1,056 yards on 265 carries and scored 11 rushing touchdowns last season. He also caught 73 passes for 578 yards and three touchdowns.
Coleman, who was drafted it the third-round (73rd overall) of the 2015 draft out of Indiana, opened last season as the starting running back and got off to a promising start before suffering fractured ribs in the second game. While out, Freeman took over the position.
Despite Freeman’s success, the Falcons still have high hopes for Coleman, who was electrifying in the open field. However, he also had ball security issues.
Coleman played in 12 games and made three starts. He rushed for 392 yards on 87 carries (4.5 yards per carry) and scored one touchdown. He had just two catches for 14 yards and was credited with three fumbles.
Coleman’s rookie season was cut short after he slipped in the shower and suffered a concussion, causing him to miss the final two games of the regular season.
“We want them competing,” Turner said. “They are very similar. They both are competitive. They both can catch the football. They both have run instincts. When it comes down to it, the one difference is the flat out long speed of Tevin Coleman.”
Turner is considered one of the best running backs coaches in the NFL.
He was in Denver from 1995 to 2009 when he was churning out 1,000-yard rushers in Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Clinton Portis, Michael Anderson, Rueben Droughns and Tatum Bell.
In Washington from 2010 to 14, Turner helped to develop Alfred Morris, who had three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2012-14.
Last season, Turner helped Freeman have a breakout 1,000-yard season.
“We are constantly emphasizing (ball security) and the key thing, unfortunately for Coleman, is to stay healthy,” Turner said. “Those were the reasons last year that we fell short there. The ball security and the fact that he came up with some (injuries). But his attitude is still good along with Freeman. They are pushing each other. We want those guys competing.”