After losing to the Eagles to open the NFL regular season, the Falcons must get back on track in Week 2 without star running back Devonta Freeman.
Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman form one of the NFL’s best one-two punches in the backfield, and the Atlanta Falcons have made the most out of this dynamic duo over the past couple of years.
Unfortunately in Week 2, they will have to make do with just Coleman, as Freeman will be unable to play.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn told reporters that Freeman will miss this week’s game against the Carolina Panthers. Any game against a division rival is important, and the Falcons want to get off to a better start after dropping their Week 1 result to the Philadelphia Eagles. Meanwhile, the Panthers are riding high after shutting down Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys offense.
Freeman suffered a knee injury against the Eagles, and Quinn stated that the running back was dealing with some soreness. He missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday before sitting out today’s session, sealing his fate as an inactive for Week 2.
This injury puts the pressure on Coleman to produce in Week 2 against a Panthers defense that held the Cowboys to just eight points last week. Ezekiel Elliott managed to average 4.6 yards per carry, though, so there is hope that Coleman could spring a couple of big runs to spark a Falcons offense that has struggled under Steve Sarkisian’s leadership.
Coleman struggled in the Falcons ugly opener, averaging just 2.1 yards per carry on nine rushing attempts. On the bright side, he did punch in a score and caught one 26-yard pass. He is more of a big-play threat in the passing game, whereas Freeman is the more consistent target for Matt Ryan, so that could be a factor on Sunday afternoon against Carolina.
Over the past two seasons, Coleman has consistently averaged 40 yards per game and 4.0 yards per carry on the ground, but the Falcons will need more production from him in an increased role against a hungry Panthers defense. He’ll need to shine, and his strong play in high-leverage situations will need to come through on Sunday.
The Falcons offense has so many impressive weapons, and they have the right man under center in Ryan, who came agonizingly close to winning a Super Bowl two years ago. Ryan came down to earth last season under Sarkisian, and the Falcons issues in the red zone under the new offensive coordinator have put additional heat on the coach.
If Coleman can have a big performance against one of the Falcons most hated opponents, then that could help ease the heat on Sarkisian and the rest of the offense. Coleman is expected to be a huge asset in the passing game in 2018, so with Freeman out, he could command a sizeable portion of Ryan’s targets in Week 2. Since his big-play ability is talked up and will be critical against Carolina, any one of those catches could go to the house.
So keep an eye out for Coleman’s role on Sunday. Julio Jones was responsible for the vast majority of whatever minimal offense the Falcons could muster against the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 1.
Since Ryan completed under 50 percent of his passes, more will be expected from the other skill position players, specifically Coleman, who has a golden opportunity to make an impact in Week 2. It won’t get any easier against the Panthers, so Coleman will have to be at his best for the Falcons to secure their first victory of 2018.