The Atlanta Falcons are in a bad situation at running back. Well now that second-year Florida State product Devonta Freeman and third-round pick Tevin Coleman suffered hamstring injuries in training camp.
ESPN’s Vaughn McClure reported that Freeman and Coleman will likely be out the next two weeks with their respective hamstring strains. That means undrafted rookie Terron Ward and playmaker Antone Smith will get a chance to prove their worth. Ward, a 5’7″ Oregon State product is running with the first-team while Smith eases his way back from the leg injury he suffered last season.
Smith is certainly down the pecking order with Freeman proving in his second offseason that he is an improved pass blocker and receiver out of the backfield. You can bet Coleman will get plenty of opportunities after a 2,000-yard, 15-touchdown season at Indiana as a junior.
“It’s all about competition,” Smith told ESPN. “Everybody wants to get the guy. Everybody wants to be No. 1. But you know me. I’m patient. Whenever things come my way, I’m going to take it and run with it.”
Smith only has 44 touches (29 rushes, 15 receptions) in his five seasons, but the 29-year-old has a chance to be a dynamic player in spurts for Atlanta. The 5’9″, 192-pounder has 286 rushing yards and 232 receiving yards and seven touchdowns (four rushing, three receiving), as he’s averaged 9.9 YPC and 15.5 YPR.
The Falcons want to see more from Smith, who is fully recovered from his broken leg last November against Carolina. He had a big night at Buford High School about 40 minutes from Atlanta on Friday.
“It was great to see ‘Tone just really come into life,” first-year head coach Dan Quinn told Falcons.com. “For him to have an injury and come back and battle the way he did, the rehab, I was so thrilled for him tonight. I really felt that burst. It was a draw, it was an outside run, catching the ball — I thought a terrific night by him. Kind of a way to say, ‘I’m back.’ ”
Overall, the new Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who should bring a physical mindset to both sides of the ball after four seasons with Seattle (2009-10, 2013-14) is excited for his revamped group. Atlanta went 10-22 over the last two seasons, finishing third in the NFC South both years.
“There was definitely some big plays by the offense that we’re real proud off,” Quinn told Falcons.com. “Then, defensively we had a couple of turnovers.”
Despite the injuries to Freeman and Coleman, the Falcons have Antone Smith, second-year Syracuse product Jerome Smith, Ward and recently signed Michael Ford in the mix.
Ford has a chance to make the roster through his special teams play despite not playing last season. The LSU product appeared in 12 games for the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2013. He made his presence known on Friday night at the live scrimmage.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 8, 2015
Atlanta’s offense will be much more effective with Freeman and Coleman healthy and on the field. Regardless of what happens over the next couple of weeks, Smith will continue to get opportunities in both the rushing and passing game.
The hope is Freeman and Coleman will be able to do some individual work next week. The sooner they get back on the field, the sooner the Falcons offense can get to work and get their offensive playbook down pat.
Atlanta hosts Tennessee next Friday in their preseason opener.