Devonta Freeman was one of the Atlanta Falcons’ breakout stars a year ago, but can second-year Tevin Coleman eat into his carries this season?
It wasn’t much of a battle between Freeman and Coleman at training camp a year ago. Both backs sat out with hamstring injuries, but Coleman’s quicker return earned him the starting nod.
And it took another Coleman injury for Freeman to finally get an opportunity in the regular season. The rest was history.
This time it’s Coleman looking in from the outside, hoping to grab some of Freeman’s carries. Last season touched the football 337 times to Coleman’s 89. Don’t expect it to be quite so lopsided this time, as Falcons running backs coach Bobby Turner hopes to reduce Freeman’s carries, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of AJC.com.
"“It’s about growth,” Turner told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “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 (Coleman) more involved and that also keeps Free fresher.”"
The Falcons didn’t have much choice but to run Freeman into the ground last season. Coleman was given his share of opportunities, but untimely fumbles derailed his playing time. The second-year man needs to show improved ball security at training camp to earn more opportunities this time around.
Coleman did show encouraging signs throughout the season. As the starter, he put together a 20-carry, 80-yard performance along with an 18-carry, 110-yard showing along the way. He has the speed to break loose of defenders in the open field, and there was enough evidence he can be a ‘home run hitter’ as a change-of-pace back.
Fumbles at critical times landed him a regular spot on the bench, and he must prove at camp he can take care of the ball.
Freeman is the unquestioned starter, but the Falcons need someone to reduce his workload and form a 1-2 punch. If Coleman doesn’t show enough at camp, he could be pushed by third-string back Terron Ward.
So long as he stays healthy, Freeman will once again run the show in Atlanta. Coleman must prove in training camp he’s ready to become the perfect complement.