The Falcons and their fans have been spoiled by one of the best running back tandems in team history over the last couple of seasons. During the 2016 season in particular, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman delivered absolutely insane results for the most high-powered offense in the league.
Earlier this offseason, I speculated that Coleman would be in line for a similar role in Steve Sarkisian’s offense as he was last year, when he carried the ball 118 times and caught 31 passes. I can’t see a huge increase in carries with Freeman in the fold, but after the 2017 NFL Draft and with training camp ahead, I thought it would be a good time to look at that anew and see if we still expect Coleman to be one of the team’s leading targets.
The short answer is yes, and I’m bullish on his share increasing a little bit. The Falcons did not add any legitimate pass catchers this year—Andre Roberts and Eric Saubert should command a combined target count in the low dozens—and while we all expect Austin Hooper and Taylor Gabriel to pick up a lot of that slack, Coleman is also a logical beneficiary. The team needs to feed its biggest playmakers.
Working in Coleman’s favor, too, is that teams can’t afford to focus all their attention on him with Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Gabriel, and Hooper split out wide. If you put him out there, chances are good he’ll wind up matched against a linebacker, and there are but a handful of linebackers in the entire NFL who are capable of keeping him in check for very long. Getting him another 10-to-even-20 targets seems reasonable, especially if he’s improved further as a pass catcher, which also seems reasonable after he basically became a capable receiver in one offseason heading into 2016.
Aaron Freeman at FalcFans has made the case that Coleman could be one of the best backs in the NFL if he had better balance, and I find it difficult to disagree with that. Even if he doesn’t, though, his speed and drastically improved route running ensures he’ll be one of this team’s most dangerous weapons through the air, and for better or worse, headed for a big payday after next season.