The Tevin Coleman the Falcons drafted was a speedy, potent back with known limitations. He had very little experience catching the ball during his days in Indiana, he wasn’t a finished product in pass protection, and he had genuine issues with balance that caused him to fall over more easily than, say, Devonta Freeman. All of that figure to limit his upside at first.
Coleman still isn’t the best blocking back in the NFL and he still falls down too easily at times, but he’s made significant strides across the board, and his transformation as a receiving back has been nothing short of astonishing. The latest example of that came in Saturday night’s preseason game against the Cardinals, where Coleman snagged a 14 yard pass that showed off his wheels and improved route running ability.
It was just a brief look, but it illustrated something that is going to vex defenses all season long. You can kind of stop Coleman as a runner, but how do you put the brakes on him in open space without dedicating resources you need to stop the likes of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, and Austin Hooper? There’s no easy answer to that question, and even if you know roughly what Coleman’s going to do on these downs where he lines up as a receiver, there’s not many linebackers or even safeties in the NFL who can slow him down.
Coleman is going to always fight for touches with Freeman around, especially since the Falcons (deservedly) paid Freeman to be their feature back. But he’s way too dangerous to be sidelined, and defenses are going to have a devil of a time keeping him contained when Atlanta has so many other weapons to bring to bear.