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Devonta Freeman http://www.authenticsatlantafalcons.com/cheap-jake-matthews-jersey , Tevin Coleman and the uncomfortable question The Atlanta Falcons have a dilemma on their hands. Starting running back Devonta Freeman is currently nursing a knee injury and will be out for an undisclosed amount of time. Second-string RB Tevin Coleman has stepped in and has kept the offense moving, much like he has every time Freeman has been limited or unavailable in the past two years.Both Freeman and Coleman are excellent running backs who would start on most teams. Both are Falcons draftees, in consecutive years. They’ve complemented each other well and have contributed to making Atlanta’s offense one of the most dynamic in the NFL over the past few seasons.In a perfect world, Atlanta could afford to keep both in the long term. As we know as Falcons fans, however, the world is far from perfect. Rookie contracts get played out, and teams often have to let contributors go if they’re too strapped for cash.Free’s deal Freeman parlayed consecutive Pro Bowl seasons in 2015 and 2016 into a 5 year/$41.25 million contract extension which made him the third highest-paid running back in the league at the time (he’s currently the fourth highest paid RB at the moment). The writing was on the wall following this extension that Freeman was the team’s choice to keep, and that they would probably be fine with letting Coleman hit the free agency waters when the time came.Things haven’t been as cut-and-dried as the team might’ve hoped following the extension, however. Freeman has dealt with his fair share of injuries after the new contract kicked in, which is not his fault but is unfortunate timing. He suffered a concussion in training camp last year, and then sustained another concussion which cost him two games in the middle of the season (well, more like three games, since the injury happened in the first series against the Dallas Cowboys in week 10).Coleman picked up the baton and led the team as the featured back, scoring four touchdowns in the three games Freeman missed.Freeman was then limited in the NFC Divisional Round matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles with an MCL and PCL sprain that wasn’t discovered by the public until after the game. He had 10 carries for seven yards in that matchup.Coleman once again picked up the slack, taking the same 10 carries for 79 rushing yards and almost helping the team pull out a victory.The start of the 2018 season has led to more of the same — Freeman is once again sidelined with a contusion on the same knee he hurt last year Black Terrell McClain Jersey , and Coleman has once again seamlessly stepped into the featured back role. Against the Panthers, the University of Indiana alum took 16 carries for 107 rushing yards and became the first player to rush for 100+ yards against Carolina in 22 games.All of these developments in the past year have us asking an uncomfortable question: did the Falcons pay the wrong running back?The great debateFreeman has done a lot for the franchise. He’s totaled over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in each of the past three seasons and has scored 35 touchdowns in that time period. When healthy, he’s arguably a top five running back in the NFL, and a more complete back than Coleman given his blocking ability. The issue stems from the frightening injury history, however. Head and knee injuries on a running back whose running style is as vicious as Freeman’s doesn’t exactly breed confidence in a team and its fanbase.The two concussions are what frighten me more than anything else. There’s a prevailing notion among many physicians that a three strike rule exists regarding concussions and long-term traumatic effects on a person’s life. Freeman is already on strike two.On the flip side of things, Coleman hasn’t exactly been a picture of perfect health either. Running back is a grueling position to play, and Tevin has suffered his fair share of knocks. He’s missed eight games in his career, including one last year for his own concussion.Remember, Freeman actually took over the starting RB job in 2015 because Coleman had an ankle injury which cost him two games, and then number 24 never relinquished his hold of that starting role.What may make people more comfortable with Coleman’s ailments is the fact that that he doesn’t have any history of knee injuries. His finesse style of running, predicated on speed and elusiveness, also seems like it would translate better into the latter stages of a career. The concussion is once again concerning, but he’s on “strike one” so to speak.Coleman has proven to be a capable starting running back when presented with the opportunity to either start or be given a starter-like workload. The Week 2 game against Carolina was just a taste of that. The Falcons are an impeccable 11-0 in games where Coleman gets at least 14 touches dating back to the 2016 season.Another thing working in Coleman’s favor is the fact that he may be a lot fresher than his counterpart. Devonta Freeman has 826 carries in his career and 1038 total career touches (this includes the playoffs), compared to Tevin Coleman’s 439 career carries and 515 total career touches (playoffs included).While Freeman is only one year older than Coleman Black Brandon Fusco Jersey , he has twice as much tread on his tires.What’s nextSo where do we go from here? Is there any hope for the Falcons possibly bringing Coleman back or is he destined to hit free agency the way we all expected him to after Freeman signed his extension?Before you suggest it, let me say that the Falcons can’t cut or trade Freeman after this season. They would incur a sizable dead cap hit which doesn’t make that scenario feasible. In reality, Atlanta can’t move on from Freeman until at least the 2020 offseason if they choose to go that route, and they’re doubtful to do so unless injuries continue to take a massive bit out of his production and limit his ability to suit up. If the team has any hopes of keeping Coleman beyond this season, they’ll need his cooperation as much as anything else.For one, they’ll have to pay him starter money because that’s what he’ll most likely demand on the open market. Around $8 million a year seems like a fair figure (that’s close to what Freeman makes). Coleman would have to agree to more of a back-loaded contract where he agrees to less cash in year one of the deal, but maybe more guaranteed money later on.It’s achievable, but only if Coleman is okay with taking a smaller signing bonus than he would get elsewhere in year one and then a roster bonus in year two.If Coleman does agree to that, then another stipulation would be that the Falcons have to trade or cut Freeman in that 2020 offseason, when the potential “out” comes up in his contract. They can keep both in 2019 because Coleman’s deal would be backloaded, but there’s no way to keep both in the long term. With rookie back Ito Smith looking great against the Panthers, it still seems unlikely that the Falcons will commit big money to two backs at the same time. I’d like to get your thoughts on what the Falcons should do. You can vote on which running back you think the Birds should stick with in the long term, below:Falcons vs. Eagles: How the game will be won or lost The long-anticipated rematch is finally here. After eight months, the Falcons are back in the spotlight against the Super Bowl champions that ended their dreams of 2016 redemption. If you remember, everything was aligning for the Falcons to make it back to the promised land. A matchup against Nick Foles created a real optimistic feeling around Atlanta. Those bright visions were shattered in a disappointing 15-10 defeat. Not scoring any points in the second half led to another playoff exit. The habit of failing to score in the red zone caught up to Steve Sarkisian’s disjointed offense. For all their incredible talent Youth Vic Beasley Jr Jersey , the Falcons continue to find ways to fall short at the worst possible time.Not much has changed since then. The main objective of winning a Super Bowl remains the same. Dan Quinn’s coaching staff methods and management style remain as popular as ever, and have been used to tweak the team. Working closely alongside the front office, the charismatic head coach keeps building a roster capable of beating any team. Their capabilities haven’t necessarily been shown in recent meetings against Philadelphia. From getting overpowered in the trenches to not finding a rhythm offensively, the Falcons have struggled against Doug Pederson’s squad. Playing better up front will go a long way in starting off the season with a bang. Surviving in the trenchesWhen evaluating the Eagles’ stacked roster, the first thing that stands out is their ferocious defensive line. No defensive line goes deeper in terms of talent and versatility. Although they lost quality rotational pieces in Vinny Curry and Beau Allen, Philadelphia remains as loaded as ever. Swooping in and trading for Michael Bennett left every NFC contender outraged. Haloti Ngata can still be effective in a limited role. By acquiring both veterans, it eliminated any doubts about depth across their defensive line.Trying to contain the likes of Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Bennett will always be difficult. The Falcons are fortunate that Timmy Jernigan is still recovering from a herniated disk. It leaves them with one fewer concern, especially when running the ball. Ngata isn’t the same run-stuffer that he once was. That should bode well for Sarkisian in utilizing their signature zone-blocking scheme. It will be essential for the offense to be productive on first and second down. Third and long situations are usually a nightmare against Philadelphia’s ultra-aggressive defense, especially when defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz breaks out the NASCAR package. Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco should be major upgrades over Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer, who were the starters in last season’s playoff game. How they fare against Bennett and Cox will determine how aggressive Matt Ryan can be in the pocket.Causing havoc in the trenchesWhile Sarkisian’s questionable play calling stole all the headlines, there was another significant reason behind the Falcons’ playoff exit. The Eagles controlled the line of scrimmage in the second half. They managed to put together drives of 12 and 14 plays for more than 13 minutes combined. Although both drives ended in field goals, it still represented a huge win for an offense adjusting to life without Carson Wentz. They were able to pick up timely first downs and keep Foles clean in the pocket. It was a disappointing end for what was arguably the Falcons’ best defensive line since 2004.The pass rush only produced one sack and four hits on 31 drop backs. Pederson deserves credit for using RPOs and other innovative play designs to get the ball out of Foles’ hands quickly. There were still far too many moments that showed Foles standing tall in the pocket without feeling rushed. Without Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe, Atlanta’s defensive line clearly doesn’t look as impressive on paper. Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley will be expected to carry the pass rushing load. How Quinn rotates on the interior alongside Grady Jarrett should be fascinating as the game wears on. It’s no secret that Foles is coming off a dreadful preseason. Generating pressure and making him play on the move are two effective ways towards rattling him. That is easier said than done against Philadelphia’s tremendous offensive line.Tevin Coleman’s usageOne of the most fascinating aspects of last season’s divisional round matchup was Coleman’s productivity. It felt like he was accelerating into the open field on nearly every other carry. With Devonta Freeman ailing from a MCL-PCL sprain http://www.authenticsatlantafalcons.com/cheap-matt-bryant-jersey , Coleman was given more touches than usual. It led to both running backs receiving ten carries. As Freeman failed to average a yard per carry, Coleman exploded for 79 yards. They used a variety of stretch runs (particularly from shotgun) to exploit Philadelphia on the outside. The dynamic back also ran effectively between the tackles as well. There are some games where Coleman can overwhelm an opposing defense. His speed gives them fits at all three levels. Unfortunately for the Falcons, linebackers and safeties aren’t being tested all that often in the passing game. Coleman’s shockingly low usage as a receiver in the regular season transferred over into the playoffs against Philadelphia. He received a mere one target off a check down, which led to him running through Malcolm Jenkins for an impressive 14-yard gain. There is no valid reason why such an electrifying multidimensional weapon caught only three or more passes in six out of 17 games last season. Coleman needs to be properly utilized, especially against top-tier defenses that don’t have any clear weaknesses. A player of his caliber can break a game open whenever he touches the ball. Designing ways to get him the ball in space will be vital in what should be a low-scoring affair.Red zone challengeSimilar to how NBC repeatedly referenced the Falcons’ Super Bowl collapse during last year’s rematch against the Patriots, they will likely bring up what transpired in the red zone against the Eagles during every red zone appearance. It was the biggest talking point following Atlanta’s loss last January. Not being able to gain nine yards in four plays with the season on the line was a cruel way for Sarkisian’s chaotic first season to end. As good as the last drive was, you have to say it wasn’t surprising to see another unsuccessful red zone trip.In the last four games of the season (including playoffs), the Falcons went five for 16 in the red zone. That includes pitiful showings against New Orleans and Carolina, where they went a combined two for nine. Not figuring out the right balance between designing plays for Julio Jones and using Jones as a decoy cost them dearly in the red zone. The hope is that Calvin Ridley brings another dimension to the offense, while Austin Hooper makes himself a bigger presence. Both players alongside Mohamed Sanu should provide more than enough support for Jones. Although the superstar receiver will command plenty of double teams, there is going to be ample pressure on him and Ryan to connect for a touchdown. They can only improve on their preposterous conversion rate of connecting on one of 18 passes in the end zone last season per ESPN Stats and Information.
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