Falcons look to give Coleman bigger workload behind Freeman
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Dan Quinn wanted to take an up-close look at Devonta Freeman as a receiver, so the Falcons coach tried to cover the running back on a deep pass route.
The results: An easy touchdown for Freeman, and respect from Quinn.
''I think everybody who saw me covering, we were trying to make sure Devonta gets the catch to get his confidence heading into practice,'' Quinn said with a smile following Friday's second day of training camp.
Freeman should already be confident about his dual-threat skills as a runner and receiver out of Atlanta's backfield. His 73 catches in 2015 were the third-most for a running back in the league. He ran for 1,056 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Freeman is the starter, but second-year running back Tevin Coleman appears bound for a larger share of the workload this season. Coleman's speed could earn him more carries while also giving Matt Ryan another target as a receiver.
''Both those guys are capable of getting out of the backfield and catching the ball,'' Ryan said Friday. ''They both showed that last year. Devonta had more opportunities. ... I think Tevin is going to do the same.''
Coleman (6-1, 210) was a third-round pick in 2015 after rushing for more than 2,000 yards in his final season at Indiana. He ran the 40 in 4.39 seconds at his pro day before the draft but was slowed by hamstring and rib injuries as a rookie.
Now Coleman is healthy and is eyeing new opportunities on kickoff returns and on offense.
''I'm just excited I'm going to play different roles in the game,'' Coleman said. ''It's a lot of expectation and I'm doing that role as best as I can and just working my tail off to be as comfortable as I can back there and be all I can be.''
Quinn said it is ''best for the team'' to protect Freeman.
''We want to do what's best for the team,'' Quinn said. ''Giving it to him every snap may not be the best way for us to win ballgames. Could he do it? Is he tough enough? 100 percent. But for us to play at our best we're going to feature both the guys at their strengths.''
Quinn now has a new appreciation of Freeman's quickness in the open field.
''It's the quickness that makes him such a challenge to cover,'' Quinn said. ''He can break one way laterally and get to full speed really fast. The guys that can do that, it makes them the hardest to cover.''
NOTES: WR Julio Jones was limited to individual drills after leaving Thursday's first practice with an undisclosed injury Quinn called a ''small tweak.'' Jones caught deep passes early in practice and ran with no apparent sign of an injury. Quinn said Jones should be cleared for full participation ''in the next day or so.'' ... The team will be in pads for the first time on Saturday. ... DE Efe Obada (6-5, 265), who is from London and was with Dallas for training camp in 2015, was signed ''as a possible project,'' according to Quinn. The team waived WR Daje Johnson.
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