WATCH: Falcons running game proving why Devonta Freeman remains starter

Dave Holcomb

It's no secret Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman has struggled this season. There's only been two games where Freeman averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry.

Overall, he's posting 3.5 yards per rush this year, and Freeman has averaged about 39 rushing yards per game in his last 11 contests.

With those numbers, some, myself included, called for the Falcons to give other running backs on the roster some additional playing time. Atlanta kept five running backs out of the preseason, so why not use them if Freeman is struggling, right?

Well, now we know why Dan Quinn stuck with Freeman. We've seen a little of what Brian Hill, Kenjon Barner and Qadree Ollison can do with Freeman out the last two games, and the results haven't been good.

Freeman has been sidelined the last two weeks with a foot injury, and immediate backup running back Ito Smith is injured too. With three other backs, though, the Falcons are supposed to have depth at the position.

But the last two weeks, Atlanta has posted 111 rushing yards combined. The Falcons faced the No. 1 rush defense Sunday in Tampa Bay, but the previous week, Carolina came into their matchup with the No. 29 ranked run defense. In that game, the Falcons averaged 2.1 yards per rush.

Atlanta's 111 rushing yards in the last two weeks is the team's lowest total over a two-week span this season. And that's saying something considering the Falcons are ranked second-to-last in rushing and 29th in rushing yards per attempt.

Hill, Barner and Ollison aren't coming close to producing what Freeman did, and he didn't exactly light the world on fire either. Hill had 16 yards on nine carries Sunday while Ollison led the team with 20 yards on eight attempts.

This would be extremely disappointing for any club, but it has to be even more so for the Falcons since running back was considered such a strength with five players at the position coming out of the final cut down day.

Freeman is certainly overpaid and has his problems staying healthy, but until he returns, Atlanta is even more unbalanced offensively. That's saying something too, considering after eight games, the Falcons were on pace to set a record for percentage of passing plays this year.

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