Falcons should be in running now with confident Tevin Coleman in fold

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Tevin Coleman doesn't lack confidence.

Days after he declared himself the best running back in the 2015 draft class, the Atlanta Falcons third-round draft pick from Indiana made another bold statement about his expected place on the depth chart this fall.

"I'm going to come in there and I'm going to get a starting spot," Coleman said via conference call on Friday. "That's what I'm going to do. Whoever is the starting back, they don't have to work. I'm coming in and working right away."

Such bravado might rub some folks the wrong way. Instead, second-year running back Devonta Freeman, also vying for a featured role, expressed nothing but respect for Coleman's strong words.

"Hey, I've got that same mentality," Freeman said. "If you're that type of competitive player, if you're that type of dog, you've got to come in and compete. You just have to be ready to compete and go all out all four quarters and every single practice every single day.

"My mentality is, I love that dog mentality. You just have to go out there and show it. Time will tell."

The addition of the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Coleman should have a positive impact on the Falcons, who got plenty of value out of their pair of Day 2 draft selections.General manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team considered drafting Coleman in the second round but opted to address a defensive need with LSU cornerback Jalen Collins, a first-round talent who vowed to put three failed drug tests behind him.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn was noticeably giddy about adding a guy in Coleman who rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season -- while dealing with a broken right toe for a good portion of the season, no less. According to ESPN Statistics and Information, Coleman had an FBS-high 10 rushing touchdowns of 25 yards or longer last season, and his average rushing touchdown gained more than 40 yards.

"When you talk about him specifically, it's the toughness and the quickness to take the ball all the way," Quinn said of Coleman. "First the toughness, with and without the ball. It's the long-play ability; the ones where he can turn an 8-yard run into a 25-yard run and the big play that goes all the way.

"We've got some terrific backs here with Devonta and Antone [Smith] as well. They're both unique. To add another player with a special skill-set to him, you can imagine how fired up we are to have a player of that caliber."

Remember, the once pass-happy Falcons are expected to proceed with a different offensive approach under Quinn and new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Balance is expected to be stressed, so the Falcons need a stable of running backs capable of moving the chains alongside quarterback Matt Ryan and top receiver Julio Jones.

The Falcons rid themselves of aging Steven Jackson and diminutive Jacquizz Rodgers after finishing 24th in the league in rushing (93.6 yards per game) last season. Shanahan's outside-zone blocking scheme that emphasizes a one-cut-and-go approach for the backs should help Coleman, Freeman and Smith all thrive, if the offensive linemen are able to keep pace.

Of course, blocking is going to be key for any of the running backs, and Coleman insists that's an integral part of his game along with catching the ball out of the backfield. Freeman continues to refine those elements as well, and he already impressed Quinn with his performance at the team's recent voluntary minicamp.

"Devonta is a terrific back," Quinn said. "I was most pleased with just seeing the speed that he has that he can get to the edge. ... And then I probably didn't give him enough credit in how good his hands are. He can really catch it. You can see why I'm so thrilled to get a chance to work with all of these guys. He's got a terrific future, Devonta does, in terms of the style, the attitude, the physicality that he plays with. I love that about him."

Freeman sees the value of a multi-back system with Coleman and Smith.

"I feel like that's important, especially on this level," Freeman said. "You want to play real balanced and fresh as much as you can. But if I could get the ball every play, that's what I'm on."