Tevin Coleman on Falcons' running game: We're going to be dangerous

Tevin Coleman answered some doubts about his health with a strong performance in the preseason finale. David Goldman/AP

With the Atlanta Falcons' season opener less than a week away, nobody has really gotten a chance to see the effectiveness of the running game behind Devonta Freeman and rookie Tevin Coleman.

Both players suffered hamstring strains during the first week of training camp. Coleman recovered in time to play in the final two preseason games, while Freeman didn't take a single snap of live game action despite returning to practice.

As the Falcons prepare to face the Philadelphia Eagles on ESPN's Monday Night Football, they're hopeful Freeman will be ready to go. Coleman already answered any doubts about his recovery with a eight-rush, 56-yard performance in the preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens. It included a 26-yard burst.

So what will happen when Coleman and Freeman get on the field together?

``It's going to be something special, me and Devonta,'' Coleman said. ``When we get healthy and we get back, we're going to be dangerous out there. I'm just going to be excited working out there and competing every day with Devonta making me better and me making Devonta better. We're just going to go out there and do what we do.''

Coleman admitted he was a little hesitant upon returning to live action. He strained his left hamstring running a route in practice. His debut came against the Miami Dolphins in the third and most important preseason game as he rushed for just two yards on four carries.

``I took out of that game just to be patient,'' Coleman said. ``Don't try to rush things. I was out there getting too excited and missing a couple reads. It was the first game, and I was just out there trying to just go fast and just not think about anything. But I also have to calm down and just be able to see my reads. I was out there overrunning my reads because I was so happy to get out there. You know how that goes, with the speed of the game. Hopefully, that's something I can learn and fix.''

Plenty still has to come together before the running game gets going full throttle. First and foremost, Coleman and Freeman have to get over any lingering pain they feel when making cuts. Coleman, of course, is more advanced in his recovery, but Freeman feels daily improvement.

``It's just day-by-day preparation; getting out there at practice and pushing myself to the limit,'' Freeman said. ``It's just being comfortable, but I'm progressing every day. Some days, I feel like I can go out there and do it well, like I'm at 90 percent. And you've got some plays where I'm kind of favoring it on the cut.''

Also, the offensive line still needs to build chemistry in the outside zone blocking scheme with the addition of veteran left guard Andy Levitre and the subtraction of projected starting center Joe Hawley, who was released. James Stone, Mike Person and newcomer Gino Gradkowski will compete to replace Hawley. And Freeman and Coleman have to get accustomed to working in unison with the revamped line.

Falcons running backs coach Bobby Turner loves the potential of the Freeman-Coleman combination, especially in the scheme.

``The backs are obviously a vital part of it,'' Turner said. ``They have the ability to set up the blocks for our linemen. I've been a part of this scheme even before I ever became a pro coach. I ran it at Purdue and Ohio State. And I picked it up from the Bengals years ago when they were successful with Ickey Woods and James Brooks.

``I just love all aspects about it; that the runners can pick and choose one gap at a time. It's no messing around. It's sticking your foot in the ground and going down hill. Devonta and Tevin are still learning. I would like them to be a lot more advanced than they are, but that's because of the injuries. But do they understand the concept of what we're trying to do? Yes.''