FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- 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.
Coleman seems to have overcome his fumbling issues after losing three as a rookie. He hasn't lost a fumble in the past 30 games, including the playoffs.
From the outset, the Falcons knew they had an explosive, big-play threat in Coleman.
"It's the explosive plays that Tev is able to create, and it's the 3-yard run and all of a sudden it turns into a 25-yard run," Quinn said. "It's the explosiveness, it's the speed that he has when he can get on the edge or get to the second level. Those are the ones when he gets to the next level, you're watching and you're like, 'OK, it's about to go.' When he's able to break out into the clear, that's where some of his finish comes in."
Coleman has had four runs of 20-plus yards this season, including a season-best 52-yarder in a win against the New York Jets. He averages 4.81 yards per carry and just had a season-high 83 yards on a season-high 20 carries in Sunday's 27-7 win against the Dallas Cowboys.
"I thought it was a nice job [Sunday] on one of the runs of using a stiff-arm," Quinn said of Coleman. "We're disappointed we didn't get him the touchdown at the end that got called back on a foul because I thought that was a nice example of his ability to get on the edge, take it, and use the stiff arm. I thought that would have been a nice cap for him to finish it off."
Naturally, the Falcons would love to be at full strength for the final seven games, especially with the league's hardest remaining strength of schedule at .609, according to ESPN Stats & Info. But the reality is they can't afford to rush Freeman back after he suffered his second concussion since August. Freeman also suffered a concussion in 2015 against the Indianapolis Colts.
Of course, the Falcons would miss Freeman's outstanding vision and his ability to catch like a receiver out of the backfield. However, though Coleman might not be known for his vision, he's certainly evolved into a threat as a receiver.
Maybe the biggest difference the Falcons will see with Coleman, other than speed, is demeanor.
"Tevin is like most guys: They're the same customer all the time," Quinn said. "Tevin is a cool cat, and so on the sideline he's that way, too. Where Freeman is up in your face and yelling, Tev is more true to his self, and he's always ready, and I really respect that about him. He just doesn't get too fazed by things, doesn't get too out of whack.
"I love the violence that he runs with, when he lowers his shoulder, because of that speed that he has. This is not a 180-pound back. This is a guy who knows how to drop his shoulder and go finish a run, and there are plenty of examples of that."
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 Falcons face three run defenses ranked in the top 10 the rest of the season -- Carolina (second), Minnesota (third), and Seattle (ninth).