Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Tevin Coleman will make his preseason debut Saturday. For Coleman, it's a moment he's been looking forward to for years. For Falcons fans, it's as chance to see the last piece of our new and improved running game in action.
There's no denying the talent in the Falcons' running back stable right now. Antone Smith is a perennial home run threat and Devonta Freeman can consistently play all three downs. But Coleman has a certain style about him, a certain swagger, and I'm not just referring to how he runs. From the moment the Falcons drafted him, Coleman made one thing very clear: he wants to start. Because a running back by committee approach is likely in Kyle Shanahan's offense, that may not mean a whole lot. But in Coleman's mind, it certainly means something. He's been very outspoken about how special he is, begging questions about his ability to share a backfield.
Quirky personality aside, few doubt his ability to thrive in a zone blocking scheme. The kid knows how to pick a hole and sprint through it. In fact, he was handpicked by the Falcons front office precisely for that reason. They saw how Indiana University utilized Coleman and zeroed in on him from there. There are also some question marks surrounding Coleman. Many draft scouts characterized him as an "adequate" receiver; or in other words, his hands aren't special. He also can't sprint his way to solid runs all the time anymore. He will need to think a little more at the next level, showing he can creatively avoid defenders, should the need arise.
If you recall, Coleman was injured before the first preseason game. A hamstring injury kept him out until now.So what can we reasonably expect from Coleman on Saturday? To be frank, don't expect too much. It is his first NFL game and first game back from an injury that doesn't lend itself to sprinting. I'd be shocked if he gets much more than 10 touches. Whether he impresses or simply turns in a mediocre performance Saturday, it will just be nice to see Coleman on the field. Why? Because we know what's to come.