So Devonta Freeman is apparently the greatest running back in the history of the NFL. The Falcons were hesitant to name him the starter out of camp. What has changed that has allowed him to be so successful?
A running back sometimes just needs two things: 1) A shot and 2) A terrific run-blocking offensive line. Freeman has always run hard and had quality vision, but he's really an improved player in year two, and the offensive line in front of him is no longer inept. Pair that with rising fullback Patrick DiMarco and Freeman's insane, already legendary work ethic, and you've got a recipe for a successful season.
But I don't think he's the best back in NFL history...yet.
Andy Levitre was pretty bad for the Titans. How has he played in Atlanta?
Levitre has been remarkably solid for the Falcons. Shanahan worked to put together a pretty athletic line and Levitre slots in well between left tackle Jake Matthews and Mike Person. I think having quality around him may help to mask some of his weaknesses, but he's been stellar in run blocking and at least decent in pass protection. We're hoping that continues for Atlanta.
The Falcons have made a huge turnaround from last year. What has been the biggest influence in the resurgence?
It's a cop-out answer, but I don't believe it's any one thing. The Falcons legitimately upgraded their talent on the offensive line and on defense, players are buying into the coaching staff, the team has been pretty healthy thus far, and the schemes are light years better than they were in 2013 and 2014. This team really took a systematic approach to turning the ship around, and it's paying off so far almost across the board.
Vic Beasely is a guy that I loved while working through the draft process. How has he played so far?
There's some fanbase angst about the low sack total, because Beasley has just two thus far, but I think he's played pretty well. He was expected to be lackluster against the run and has been very solid, and he is getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The problem is that he needs to expand his toolkit of pass rushing moves, maybe add a little weight, and not overpursue en route to the quarterback. He's young and has sky-high upside, though, so I think he'll get there sooner than later.
Write the headline in Sunday's Tennessean.
"Feisty Titans Wane Late, Drop 31-20 Game with Falcons."
A big thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer my questions.