It seemed like just yesterday the Falcons had a huge question mark surrounding the running back position. Devonta Freeman missed the whole preseason due to injury, Tevin Coleman was only able to play in the final preseason game because of an injury, and Atlanta reached an injury related buyout agreement with running back Antone Smith. Rookie Tevin Coleman entered week 1 as the starting running back for the Falcons. He carried the ball 20 times for 80 yards against a tough Eagles rush defense. Freeman received 10 carries in that game an only gained 18 yards. Coleman seemed to be the man heading into week 2 versus the Giants, but his game was cut short due to a rib injury. Freeman helped lead the Falcons back and scored the go ahead touchdown in the Falcons’ 24-20 win over the Giants. With Coleman out in week 3, Freeman looked to carry the full load against the number 1 rushing defense in the league. The second-year man out of Florida State absolutely dominated the Dallas Cowboys’ defense. He carried the ball a career-high 30 times for 141 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also proved to be a dynamic threat out of the backfield, catching 5 passes for 52 yards. Coleman is slated to return sooner rather than later, so with the two preforming so well in their respective opportunities, who should get the nod as the starting running back?
Obviously both of these players are going to receive a significant amount of touches when they are both healthy, but the feature back in this offense down the road is Tevin Coleman. Although Coleman may have not filled up the stat sheet, he simply looked like the more explosive back when both where on the field in the beginning weeks of the season. When the Falcons drafted Coleman, he seemed like a perfect fit for the offense. Coleman excelled at Indiana in the same type of zone blocking scheme that Kyle Shanahan has implemented with the Falcons. He is one of only three running backs to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season in Big 10 history. The 6 foot 1, 210 pound back featured great one cut ability at Indiana and has showcased that in a small sample size for Atlanta. He is very explosive and it is just a matter of time before Falcons fans watch Coleman break off some big plays.
While the job should be Coleman’s to lose, Freeman will be pushing him every step of the way. Atlanta drafted Freeman last year in the 4th round, and he carried the ball 65 times for 248 yards. Do not let his 5 foot 8 frame fool you, Freeman is extremely tough to get down and always keeps his feet moving, as he showcased this past weekend. He also believes he should be a starting running back in the NFL. At Florida State, Freeman was the engine that pushed the Seminoles to a national title in 2013. He has the toughness and physicality that Dan Quinn loves, but still might lack the size to be an every down back in the NFL. He also has struggled with pass protection so far this year and throughout his career. With a struggling offensive line, a running back that can pass block is absolutely necessary. Freeman will have to improve as a pass blocker if he wants to start every week in the NFL.
The problem is a good one to have. Atlanta has been searching for the answer at running back ever since the departure of Michael Turner. It seems they have found two great options through the last two drafts, so fans who do you think should be starting for the Atlanta Falcons when healthy?