After the departure of Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers and in the midst of uncertainty at the running back position, Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan were looking for a running back to fit the new offensive scheme. Coleman was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 73rd overall pick in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and with the hamstring injury to Devonta Freeman in pre-season, Coleman earned the starting nod.
After an impressive outing against the Philadelphia Eagles, Coleman suffered a cracked rib and missed the following two games. After missing time, Coleman was trying to work his way back into the Falcons offense, however, his carries were limited and Coleman began to have an issue with securing the football.
As we enter his second season with the Falcons, let's review some of the pros and cons and give an overall outlook on Tevin Coleman's role going forward in Atlanta.
Coleman's rookie season shouldn't be his only chance:
Falcons fans, we have a very hard time remaining patient with a running back that has endured the issues that we've seen from rookie Tevin Coleman, however, his potential is loaded.
One of the biggest reasons Atlanta drafted him in the spring was his successful college career at Indiana University. During his final college season, Coleman was a consensus first-team All-American and was selected first-team All-Big Ten. Coleman was also a finalist for the prestigious Doak Walker award, which recognizes the best college running back in the nation. Coleman was the third player in Big 10 history with 2,000 rushing yards in a single season, following Larry Johnson and Melvin Gordon, and he set a school record with 2,036 rushing yards, including 307 rushing yards vs. Rutgers. Coleman finished seventh in the 2014 Heisman Trophy voting.
In his first game against the Eagles, we saw some of the many traits that made Atlanta consider Coleman as a feature running back in Shanahan's scheme. Similar to Devonta Freeman, Coleman is a violent run finisher. We've seen him duck his shoulder and invite contact, and he's not a content runner. Coleman will keep his feet moving after contact and won't give in, which is another way Coleman is similar to Freeman. Both will work to gain as many yards as possible on a play. Also, Coleman is a pretty solid receiving back and willing to square up and engage pass rushers on passing plays.
Don't allow his struggles as a rookie to misguide you. Coleman is a tough guy. Coleman is also a very fluid and flexible back with elite one-cut ability and can naturally change directions without gearing down. We witnessed that on a few occasions in the preseason and on a few runs during the season as well.
At the end of the day, Tevin Coleman had a trying rookie season, however, he's been battling adversity all of his life and he's overcome trials time after time. Coleman was born 10 weeks early and the doctors only gave him a 20 percent chance of survival, but he made it.
Coleman's turnover woes and other issues must improve:
Although I've discussed some of the traits that make Tevin Coleman a very solid running back in the Falcons offense, one of the biggest issues we saw from him in particular during Atlanta's six game losing streak was the lack of ball security. Coleman's two biggest runs of the season â the 18-yard run in the Week 6 loss against the New Orleans Saints and the 43-yard run against the Minnesota Vikings â both ended with costly fumbles. Coleman had another costly turnover in the red zone against the Indianapolis Colts. The turnover woes were one of Coleman's biggest issues throughout the season, and it was was something he wasn't known for in his college days.
Coleman's confidence was rattled after the early season injury and the emergence of Devonta Freeman in Atlanta's rushing attack. Over the offseason, it's imperative that Coleman regains his confidence and won't waste his talents despite a rough rookie campaign. Some of Atlanta's most productive players in franchise history, such as Roddy White, got off to rough starts in their early years. White is now the franchise leader in many receiving categories. White had an average first two seasons before his breakout season in 2007 under Coach Bobby Petrino, and he eventually became one of the most reliable targets in the NFL.
Overall, the main issue Coleman must fix is his tendency to run carelessly with the football. One of the concerns I saw from Coleman was starting off carries like a sprint. Although his speed and ability to change direction is solid, this scheme wants the back to show patience but also bring a physical presence at the beginning of the play, which at times we've seen him struggle to maintain.
Coleman can also improve run tempo and patience on stretch plays. For example, on some of the turnovers he's committed during the season, instead of taking what the defense gave him, he'll aim so hard to make an impact that it causes him to play carelessly with the football, which could make an offensive coordinator and coach lose trust in your abilities to deliver for the team at the crucial moments.
Outlook for 2016:
Tevin Coleman is a very talented running back who went through some of the growing pains of facing NFL talent in his rookie season. Moving forward, Coleman and starter and Pro Bowler Devonta Freeman could present a lethal one-two punch in Atlanta's backfield next season. Falcons fans, Coleman may not be one of your favorite players at the moment, but with his potential and the benefit of another year in the system, he could be poised to make a positive impact on the Falcons offense.
Coleman is a tough person on and off the football field and should take the 2015 NFL season as a lesson learned and work on improving his craft in the future. Even though 2015 was rough in some patches for Coleman, there are some very good reasons to believe Coleman can and will improve in the coming year.
What are your thoughts on Tevin Coleman as he enters his sophomore campaign?