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Rookie Tevin Coleman Gives Falcons Glimpse Of A Running Game


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Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons finally showed signs of a running game, thanks to rookie Tevin Coleman.

Coleman, the third-round draft pick from Indiana, gave folks a glimpse of his big-play potential with eight rushes for 56 yards in Thursday night's 20-19 preseason victory against the Baltimore Ravens. Coleman had six rushes for 52 yards in the first quarter alone, including a nifty, 26-yard burst.

Coleman averaged 7.0 yards per carry. The Falcons managed just 1.9 yards per carry as a team through the first three preseason games.

The Falcons hadn't gotten the running game going with projected starter Devonta Freeman missing all four preseason games with a hamstring injury and Coleman himself held back by a hamstring strain. Not to mention the uncertainty along the offensive line, with so many different line combinations trying to get up to speed in the new outsize zone blocking scheme.

Will Coleman challenge for the starting job? That remains unclear. But once Freeman is fully healthy, it could make for a pretty potent running back duo -- with some explosive burst from Antone Smith sprinkled in, too.

  1. QB Depth Chart: Holding Steady? Well, Matt Ryan isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But the Falcons still need to figure out their backup situation. Veteran Rex Grossman didn't really get a chance to get going in his first action with the team as he took a few sacks. Sean Renfree showed some poise on a couple throws but had his share of misfires. Renfree finished 10 of 15 for 75 yards and a touchdown while Grossman was 4 of 9 for 41 yards. And T.J. Yates, who coach Dan Quinn wanted to improve his accuracy, didn't even play in Thursday's preseason finale. It's highly doubtful the Falcons keep all three, and they could put Renfree on the practice squad. The guy the Falcons probably could have used -- Matt Schaub -- was on the other sideline with the Ravens.

  2. Maybe That Dude Could Start: Rookie fifth-round pick Grady Jarrett, the defensive lineman from Clemson, was all over the field in the second half. He had a sack and just played with such speed and power. Jarrett definitely should challenge for playing time in the defensive line rotation.

  3. A Player Who Looks Amazing: Well, rookie wide receiver Justin Hardy looked pretty amazing on a 70-yard punt return in the second quarter. He took a hit at the beginning but stayed on his feet and almost broke loose for a touchdown. He's unlikely to challenge Devin Hester for the primary return duties, but it's good insurance, particularly with Hester currently dealing with turf toe.

  4. Rookie Watch: We talked about the contributions of third-round pick Coleman, fourth-rounder Hardy, and fifth-rounder Jarrett. Second-round pick Jalen Collins, the cornerback from LSU, has some good and bad. He made a very nice special teams tackle but also was a step behind on a long pass play.

  5. One Reason To Freak Out, Good or Bad: The offensive line still has issues to resolve. Both quarterbacks were under duress more often than not Thursday. The shaky performance of some of the reserve linemen showed how the Falcons really need to be concerned about having quality depth. General manager Thomas Dimitroff implied the team would sift through cuts to help bolster the line.

  6. On the bubble: Second-year defensive back Dezmen Southward, the former third-round draft pick who made the switch from free safety to cornerback, played like his job was on the line. He recovered a fumble on special teams and had a punishing hit on defense while playing more physical than he's shown at any other time. But Southward got beat for a touchdown in the final minute that gave the Ravens a chance to win the game, had they not failed with the two-point conversion. Southward will probably have to find work elsewhere.

  7. Making an impression: Receivers Carlton Mitchell and Nick Williams both made plays that certainly earned the attention of the coaches. Mitchell had a nice catch and run that resulted in a 25-yard touchdown, while the diminutive Williams pin-balled his way through defenders. It's too bad the Falcons are so deep at wide receiver.


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