FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Falcons have one of the best running backs coaches in the NFL in Bobby Turner.
He was in Denver from 1995 to 2009 and churned 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. (We met Turner back in 1989 and 1990 when he was the running backs coach for John Cooper at Ohio State. His running backs included Carlos Snow, Scottie Graham, Robert Smith, Byler By'note and Raymont Harris. Kirk Herbstreit spilt quarterback duties with Kent Graham. All of Turner's backs received shots in the NFL before he left to become Purdue's assistant head coach/offensive coordinator).
Last season, Turner helped Devonta Freeman have a breakout 1,000-yard season.
Turner, who sees a lot of promise in Tevin Coleman, talked about the running backs group with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently.
Here's a Q&A with Turner, who plans to use Freeman less in 2016:
Q: How did the offseason go for the backfield guys?
A: Well, they are never 100 percent of where you want them. But I’m happy with where we are right now. I’m still pushing them to get better and improve. Those guys are still competing. The main thing is that we are not emphasizing it any more than we did last year, but it’s about protecting the football. Ball security, it starts there. But we emphasize the heck out of it every day. That’s what we’re about. That’s throughout the village.
Q: What are you plans for Tevin Coleman?
A: We are constantly emphasizing (ball security) and the key thing, unfortunately for Coleman, is to stay healthy. 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 and they are doing that.
Q: What's the key moving forward for both running backs?
A: It’s about growth. 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 more involved and that also keeps Free fresher.
We want them competing. They are very similar. The only difference is really when it comes down to it is that 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.
Q: What did you all see from rookie Will Ratelle to convert him to fullback from linebacker?
A: We’ve done that in the past through my history. At the fullback position, we want a kid who’s physical. He’s 250 pounds. He has good quickness. He has good speed. The mind-set was that we saw an athlete there and he was willing. He was open-minded about playing fullback in the National Football League.
Q: Was he a physical linebacker?
A: When it comes down to it, you want a player who is tough. I don’t care what position that you play, I'm looking for a guy that’s tough. If he competes and he’s tough, that’s what we are about. We saw a player that competed. We saw a player that was tough. We also saw a player that was willing to make the change.
Q: How did Terron Ward play for you last season?
A: Again, he wasn’t a surprise. He was a free agent for us, undrafted, and we’ve done this in the past. He made the team for a reason. What he lacked in size, height and speed...we were looking for a football player. So, he did a good job for us and again, I’m expecting him to be even more competitive. Maybe he can compete and push those other two.
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