By Cedric Williams
Atlanta Falcons rookie Tevin Coleman surprised many by winning the starting running back job coming out of training camp. Most believed second-year man Devonta Freeman was the most likely choice to serve as Atlanta’s primary ballcarrier heading into the season.
Both players though, suffered hamstring injuries early in camp, and only Coleman was healthy enough to play in actual games during the preseason, which made him the No. 1 man in the backfield heading into the season opener two weeks ago against Philadelphia.
The rookie from Indiana was off to a good start, too, with 80 yards on 20 carries in the opener, 32 yards on nine carries, and his first career touchdown in the early going of last week’s game in New York.
But now, as the Falcons head into a Week 3 matchup in Texas against the Dallas Cowboys, Coleman looks unlikely to play on Sunday after suffering a fractured rib in the second quarter last week against the Giants.
“It’s not something that’s displaced or out of whack,” Quinn told the media during his weekly Monday press conference. “So, I’m not going to put a timetable on it until we know how he’s responding to it. And then as we get later in the week, then we can put more of a timetable on it.”
Most believe the Falcons coach is simply being optimistic, and that there’s little chance for Coleman to play on Sunday. The decision will depend on how much pain Coleman is in and how much more he can take. If NFL history tells us anything, fractured ribs usually keep players out for 2-4 weeks.
“His first time going through it, so that’s why we don’t want to put like a distance on it at this point,” Quinn said on Monday.
Devonta Freeman likely to make first career start at RB on Sunday
With Coleman presumably not able to play this Sunday, the focus immediately turns to Freeman, who appears to be the likely choice to make his first career start when the Falcons touch down to Jerry Jones’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Rookie Terron Ward will be the backup on Sunday.
“I’m prepared for it,” Freeman said on Monday. “I always prepare hard. Whatever coach asks me to do, I’m going to do it.”
Heading into the season, it seemed like what the coaches were going to ask Freeman to do was serve as Atlanta’s No. 1 running back. But the former Florida State star suffered a more severe hamstring injury than Coleman did during training camp, which put him behind the rookie in the starting rotation.
Freeman felt no pain and was back in the lineup heading into the week of the opener, but still had to settle for the backup role in the game against the Eagles.
Despite the two exciting victories for Atlanta, the Falcons are averaging just 80 rushing yards a game through two games. The musical chairs in the backfield has clearly not been a recipe for success so far this season.
“Everybody’s gotta be on the same page,” Freeman said. “Once we start clicking … I feel like everybody’s still learning the offense. Once everybody knows what’s going on — how you’re supposed to block, how you’re not supposed block — then we’ll get things going.”
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a full-time reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the NFL, as well as college and high school sports for the St. Louis American, Patch.com, and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can be found on Examiner.com.