Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn knows if a concussion sidelines running back Devonta Freeman for an extended period of time, he has a guy in Tevin Coleman more than capable of handling the load.
Coleman, the third-year player from Indiana, is like having another starter in the arsenal anyhow. In fact, he was the starter at the beginning of his rookie season in 2015, when Coleman and Freeman both dealt with preseason hamstring injuries but Coleman recovered faster. Then Freeman became the starter -- and a two-time Pro Bowler -- after Coleman suffered a rib injury in his second career game.
If Coleman starts next Monday night in Seattle, as expected, he'll be backed up by Terron Ward. Quinn said rookie Brian Hill has made progress the past few weeks, although Hill remains on the practice squad. Fullback Derrick Coleman is capable of playing running back, if needed.
The bad news for Coleman owners, even if he starts while Freeman misses multiple games, is the Falcons face three run defenses ranked in the top 10 the rest of the season -- Carolina (second), Minnesota (third), and Seattle (ninth).
Rawls is also coming off a broken ankle that ended his rookie season after 830 yards and four touchdowns in seven starts replacing an injured Lynch.
While Rawls showed special qualities as a rookie and the Seahawks believe he will be ready for the start of training camp, they aren’t putting all their eggs in one basket either.
“He definitely has the talent to (take over for Lynch), but we’re going to get a couple people in there to compete with him,” general manager John Schneider said Wednesday. “And he’s recovering from a significant injury as well too. He’s a fun kid and a really talented guy. I just can’t tell you that (he’ll succeed) right now. I’d go to (Las) Vegas if I could tell you that.”
Despite Schneider's comments, with Marshawn Lynch out of the way, Rawls is first in line for workhorse back duties given his performance in 2015. In the six games in which Rawls played and Lynch did not, the rookie averaged 20.5 touches for 120 yards and 0.84 touchdowns (on a stellar 5.6 YPC). That doesn't even include Week 3, when he turned 16 carries into 104 yards while Lynch was limited to five carries. A fractured ankle ended his season, but it didn't require surgery and he should be ready to for training camp. If he's fully healthy, Rawls' ADP should climb into the 3rd round or higher.
Instead, it was Michael and Brown combining for 25 carries. Michael played on 24 snaps and Brown 22.
Michael led the team with 16 carries for 84 yards (5.3 YPC). It's telling that 11 of those attempts came in the second half. Clearly, the coaches were liking what they saw from Michael and wanted to give him more opportunities, the story said. But something to keep in mind is Brown (9-43-0) had not carried the ball in an NFL game in over a year. Brown said he felt anxious beforehand but got more comfortable as the game went on, the story pointed out. Based on Week 15, Michael seems to be the safer play heading into Week 16.
On Friday as he spoke with a few reporters, Coleman said he’s confident the job can get done without Lynch and Rawls.
“We are not going to be the weakest link,’’ Coleman said, mentioning the likes of Michael and Brown. “We are going to go out there and do our job and do what we can do.’’
The story said HC Pete Carroll has sounded enamored with Coleman this week, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he has a big role against the Browns. This situation is very much up in the air as Brown, Fred Jackson and Michael will likely all be involved in some capacity as well, making all of them risky fantasy plays.