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Devonta Freeman embraces the challenge of competing for a starting role

The second-year running back's competitive nature will serve him well as he battles with rookie Tevin Coleman for carries this season.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

After several seasons with aging feature backs and a running game that left a lot to be desired, the Falcons have two young players who each seem capable of earning the majority of Atlanta's carries this season, and both Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman hope to do exactly that.

Shortly after Coleman was announced as the Falcons' third-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, he told the media he expected to be the top guy on the depth chart, saying, "I'm going to come in there and I'm going to get the starting spot." Well, Freeman didn't agree, saying, "This has always been my dream. I never had a dream to come to the NFL and play second to no man."

Freeman indicated during the first week of OTAs that the competition between him and Coleman certainly drives him to succeed. "I feel like that drives every single player on this earth. To me, I know it feels like it gives me that drive knowing another guy is just as good," Freeman said. "But it just brings the best out of both of the guys or how many ever guys it is."

Dan Quinn says that Freeman is certainly giving this competition everything he has. "I love the competitive attitude that Devonta brings," Quinn said. "To me, having the best offseason you've ever had -- he's one of the guys, like, 'I'm here, Coach. I'm ready.' And he wants to be the first to do everything, so that tells you what a competitor he is."

It's not just Freeman's competitive nature that's appealing to Quinn. "I knew he had terrific hands just from coming out. You saw that as part of the game, and then now, to add what he's doing into the run game, I can't wait to watch him work, because he doesn't back down from anything," Quinn said. "That's one of the things I love about Devonta the most. He just, every challenge, 'Yep, I'm ready for the next one.'"

New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan told me that the competition between Freeman and Coleman is pretty fierce, but that it's not just those two players who are fighting for a role this season. "I definitely see it between them. I see it between everybody," Shanahan said. "No one has a role just penciled in right now, and everyone's out there competing, trying to earn a spot."

With the installation of a new scheme, it puts veterans and rookies on a more level playing field. Everyone's learning a new offense, and Shanahan said that nobody is guaranteed a starting role until they earn it. "It's also a new offense to everybody -- not just the rookies, but it's a new scheme for the people who have been here," Shanahan said. "So everyone's been competing -- competing hard, and I think they're trying to soak as much in and get as good as they can so when they get to training camp, you can see who comes out on top in that competition."

The running back position battle will certainly be one to watch as the team heads into training camp next month. What are your expectations on how that competition will unfold?