Tevin Coleman’s rookie year did not go exactly how he envisioned. After being just the second running back in Big 10 history to eclipse the 2,000 yard mark in a single season, Coleman’s rookie campaign was filled with briefs bits of explosion followed by untimely mistakes. Coleman received the majority of the carries in week one against the Eagles and impressed, but was injured the following week against the Giants. Devonta Freeman shined in his absence, leading the Falcons to a 5-0 record. This resulted in Coleman playing second fiddle and it did not get any better from there. He lost three fumbles after returning from injury, which resulted in him seeing even less involvement in the offense. But however disappointing his rookie campaign may have been, Quinn and the Falcons believe he is ready to play a much bigger role in year two.
Devonta Freeman was an absolute beast for Atlanta all season. Many may think it was a fluke, but Freeman is one of the best dual threat running backs in the league today. At just 24, he has a ton of room for improvement and is poised for a long career, which is rare for a running back. The Falcons want to ensure that future. Running backs coach Bobby Turner has already suggested the Falcons are looking to reduce Freeman’s workload and allow Coleman more chances to touch the ball. They want to avoid overworking Freeman, and luckily with Coleman, they have a backup that most teams are envious of.
In the time that Coleman was healthy and not handing the ball to the other team, he actually was a very productive runner. He carried the ball 87 times for 392 yards (4.5 yards per carry), but most importantly showed the elusiveness and one-cut explosion that made him a star in college.
Coleman’s breakaway speed is the one thing that sets him apart from other NFL running backs. Even though he only recorded two runs of over 20-yards last season, he has the ability to change the game every time he touches the ball. Falcons coaches have been raving about it ever since he came into the NFL, and it is something fans should witness more this season. Freeman struggled in the final third of the season. He failed to eclipse 81 rushing yards and barely averaged 3 yards per rush. His ability to catch the ball still made him a valuable asset, but there is no question the totality of his workload began to catch up to him. Allowing a healthy Coleman to see more carries will not only keep Freeman fresh, but it should result in more big plays in the run game.
Dan Quinn looks to have put Coleman’s miscues from last season in the past and is putting quite of bit of responsibility on the second year player. Coleman was listed as the primary kick returner on the Falcons first official depth chart. Based on Coleman’s big play ability, this is no surprise. However considering Coleman’s history of fumbling the ball, it is promising to see Quinn show this kind of trust in him.
Quinn is not the only one that has been impressed with Coleman heading into his second season. Matt Ryan said this of Coleman earlier this summer, “Even some second year guys. It’s good to see guys like Tevin Coleman coming into his own. Looks really comfortable within the system. I think his confidence is really high. And I think it should be, because he’s such a talented guy, and he’s going to be really good for us.” Year two could be Coleman’s breakout season.
The starting running back job is Devonta Freeman’s, and Tevin Coleman is going to have to play exceedingly well to ever change that. However, Dan Quinn and the rest of this organization believe Coleman is ready for an increased role in year two. He is going to have a fantastic year, and the position looks to be much more of a two-man job than it was last season.