When defensive guru Dan Quinn was hired as the Atlanta Falcons' new head coach during the offseason, it was assumed that his primary mandate would be to come in to fix what was one of the worst defenses in the league. Well, Quinn's scheme, energy and savvy moves have helped do just that so far. And on the other side of the ball, his decision to hire Kyle Shanahan to run the offense has looked like one of the biggest coups of the year.
Shanahan has the 4-0 Falcons rolling, and a big part of it has been the emergence of Devonta Freeman as the lead back.
Atlanta is now averaging 32.75 points per game this year, nearly 10 points per game better than its mark from 2014. The team is doing it with balance and explosiveness, too. It's not terribly surprising that Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are completely destroying defenses downfield in Shanahan's pass offense, but it's Shanahan's zone blocking scheme up front that is helping Atlanta blow the doors off of opposing gameplans. After averaging just 23 rushing attempts for 93 yards per game last year, the Falcons are putting up 33 rushes with 113 yards on the ground per game in 2014. That balance has been key.
Freeman, a second-year pro, looks like an absolute beast in the one-cut-and-go offense, and he followed up his three-touchdown performance last week with three more scores Sunday against the Texans.
This was his first...
And this was his second...
Freeman now leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns with seven and has been a great mix of brute physicality, explosiveness in small spaces and effectiveness in the pass game. For a little context, Freeman is the first Falcon in franchise history to score seven rushing touchdowns in the team's first four games, the first to do it in the NFL since Ladainian Tomlinson did it in 2005, and is the first player with three-plus rushing touchdowns in back-to-back games since Tomlinson achieved that feat in 2006.
Freeman had just two touchdowns his rookie year, but is thriving under Shanahan.
Shanahan's resignation as the offensive coordinator of the Browns amid organizational dysfunction in early January looks like a great piece of luck for Quinn and company. He's has been the perfect fit for the type of offense that Quinn ostensibly wants to run with his new team, mixing a wear-you-down run game with explosive shot-taking down the field. He already had the horses in Ryan, Jones and Roddy White to do some damage in the pass game, but coming out of Seattle's philosophy, you know that Quinn wants to run the ball, and run it a lot. He's gotten his wish, and Freeman looks like a true star in the making.