Devonta Freeman Stitched Blidi Wreh-Wilson Jersey , Tevin Coleman and the uncomfortable question The Atlanta Falcons have a dilemma on their hands. Starting running back Devonta Freeman is currently nursing a knee injury and will be out for an undisclosed amount of time. Second-string RB Tevin Coleman has stepped in and has kept the offense moving, much like he has every time Freeman has been limited or unavailable in the past two years.Both Freeman and Coleman are excellent running backs who would start on most teams. Both are Falcons draftees, in consecutive years. Theyve complemented each other well and have contributed to making Atlantas offense one of the most dynamic in the NFL over the past few seasons.In a perfect world, Atlanta could afford to keep both in the long term. As we know as Falcons fans, however, the world is far from perfect. Rookie contracts get played out, and teams often have to let contributors go if theyre too strapped for cash.Frees deal Freeman parlayed consecutive Pro Bowl seasons in 2015 and 2016 into a 5 year/$41.25 million contract extension which made him the third highest-paid running back in the league at the time (hes currently the fourth highest paid RB at the moment). The writing was on the wall following this extension that Freeman was the teams choice to keep, and that they would probably be fine with letting Coleman hit the free agency waters when the time came.Things havent been as cut-and-dried as the team mightve hoped following the extension, however. Freeman has dealt with his fair share of injuries after the new contract kicked in, which is not his fault but is unfortunate timing. He suffered a concussion in training camp last year, and then sustained another concussion which cost him two games in the middle of the season (well, more like three games, since the injury happened in the first series against the Dallas Cowboys in week 10).Coleman picked up the baton and led the team as the featured back, scoring four touchdowns in the three games Freeman missed.Freeman was then limited in the NFC Divisional Round matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles with an MCL and PCL sprain that wasnt discovered by the public until after the game. He had 10 carries for seven yards in that matchup.Coleman once again picked up the slack, taking the same 10 carries for 79 rushing yards and almost helping the team pull out a victory.The start of the 2018 season has led to more of the same Freeman is once again sidelined with a contusion on the same knee he hurt last year, and Coleman has once again seamlessly stepped into the featured back role. Against the Panthers, the University of Indiana alum took 16 carries for 107 rushing yards and became the first player to rush for 100+ yards against Carolina in 22 games.All of these developments in the past year have us asking an uncomfortable question: did the Falcons pay the wrong running back?The great debateFreeman has done a lot for the franchise. Hes totaled over 1 Youth Blidi Wreh-Wilson Jersey ,000 yards from scrimmage in each of the past three seasons and has scored 35 touchdowns in that time period. When healthy, hes arguably a top five running back in the NFL, and a more complete back than Coleman given his blocking ability. The issue stems from the frightening injury history, however. Head and knee injuries on a running back whose running style is as vicious as Freemans doesnt exactly breed confidence in a team and its fanbase.The two concussions are what frighten me more than anything else. Theres a prevailing notion among many physicians that a three strike rule exists regarding concussions and long-term traumatic effects on a persons life. Freeman is already on strike two.On the flip side of things, Coleman hasnt exactly been a picture of perfect health either. Running back is a grueling position to play, and Tevin has suffered his fair share of knocks. Hes missed eight games in his career, including one last year for his own concussion.Remember, Freeman actually took over the starting RB job in 2015 because Coleman had an ankle injury which cost him two games, and then number 24 never relinquished his hold of that starting role.What may make people more comfortable with Colemans ailments is the fact that that he doesnt have any history of knee injuries. His finesse style of running, predicated on speed and elusiveness, also seems like it would translate better into the latter stages of a career. The concussion is once again concerning, but hes on strike one so to speak.Coleman has proven to be a capable starting running back when presented with the opportunity to either start or be given a starter-like workload. The Week 2 game against Carolina was just a taste of that. The Falcons are an impeccable 11-0 in games where Coleman gets at least 14 touches dating back to the 2016 season.Another thing working in Colemans favor is the fact that he may be a lot fresher than his counterpart. Devonta Freeman has 826 carries in his career and 1038 total career touches (this includes the playoffs), compared to Tevin Colemans 439 career carries and 515 total career touches (playoffs included).While Freeman is only one year older than Coleman, he has twice as much tread on his tires.Whats nextSo where do we go from here? Is there any hope for the Falcons possibly bringing Coleman back or is he destined to hit free agency the way we all expected him to after Freeman signed his extension?Before you suggest it, let me say that the Falcons cant cut or trade Freeman after this season. They would incur a sizable dead cap hit which doesnt make that scenario feasible. In reality, Atlanta cant move on from Freeman until at least the 2020 offseason if they choose to go that route, and theyre doubtful to do so unless injuries continue to take a massive bit out of his production and limit his ability to suit up. If the team has any hopes of keeping Coleman beyond this season Stitched Ty Sambrailo Jersey , theyll need his cooperation as much as anything else.For one, theyll have to pay him starter money because thats what hell most likely demand on the open market. Around $8 million a year seems like a fair figure (thats close to what Freeman makes). Coleman would have to agree to more of a back-loaded contract where he agrees to less cash in year one of the deal, but maybe more guaranteed money later on.Its achievable, but only if Coleman is okay with taking a smaller signing bonus than he would get elsewhere in year one and then a roster bonus in year two.If Coleman does agree to that, then another stipulation would be that the Falcons have to trade or cut Freeman in that 2020 offseason, when the potential out comes up in his contract. They can keep both in 2019 because Colemans deal would be backloaded, but theres no way to keep both in the long term. With rookie back Ito Smith looking great against the Panthers, it still seems unlikely that the Falcons will commit big money to two backs at the same time. Id like to get your thoughts on what the Falcons should do. You can vote on which running back you think the Birds should stick with in the long term, below:Falcons fans need to trust Dan Quinn and give him time The Falcons have injuries this year that are some of the worst weve ever seen. In just three games, the team has already lost both starting safeties for the year and their pro-bowl middle linebacker for at least half the year. Their best pass rusher is also sidelined while an important rotational player is also warming the bench. The offense is only slightly better off, with Andy Levitre gone for the year and Devonta Freeman missing the past two games with more to come. Understandably, fans desperately want to see the team do something. Coming into the season, many people felt this team was one of the most talented in the league and capable of going all the way to the big dance again. That perception is quickly slipping away, and the hope of getting back to the Super Bowl is disappearing with it.Ive seen fans clamoring for the team to go after a trade for someone like Earl Thomas. Others want the team to sign Eric Reid off the street. Many are saying the lack of moves shows incompetence on the part of the team. Its time to take a breath and give Dan Quinn and the front office the trust theyve earned over the last few seasons. An eye to the futureWhen Coach Quinn was asked about bringing in an expensive veteran, his response made it clear: he and Thomas Dimitroff are not only thinking about 2018, theyre thinking about the long-term. The idea of bringing in Earl Thomas sounds great for 2018, but giving up a draft pick for a short-term rental will look foolish in the long-term Youth Ty Sambrailo Jersey , especially if we miss out on a draft pick that could be a game changer for the team for years. That doesnt even get into a discussion about the tight salary cap the Falcons have. Bringing in an experienced veteran could be costly and could keep the team from signing a player like Grady Jarrett before he hits free agency. These are tough decisions to make, but Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff are being mindful about the long-term success of the team, which should be something fans appreciate, not lament.Plan D in actionWhen Dan Quinn was brought in, it was with the understanding that hed focus on developing guys further down the roster. In his short time in Atlanta, hes already demonstrated he will develop guys and give them an opportunity to grow. Ricardo Allen is a perfect example of this. He took a fifth round pick who was cut by the previous regime and turned him into a high-quality starting free safety. Now, he looks to use yet another fifth round pick to fill in the void left by Allen in Damontae Kazee.Many fans were highly critical of Mike Smiths complete lack of development of guys deeper on the roster. Quinn has been a breath of fresh air in that regard, and now is the moment where that development is put to the test. There will be some very rough bumps in the road and times we question the wisdom of this, but we need to see it through. Weve already lived through the flip side of this and it left our roster decimated in the long-run.Knowing his guysWhile we all assume that someone like Eric Reid could come in and be a big upgrade at strong safety, the reality is that were assuming that to be the case. Coach Quinn knows the explicit traits he wants in his players and what makes them successful. He also probably has a good feel for whether or not someone would be a big enough upgrade over the guys he already has on the roster. Thats not to say that Reid is a bad player - far from it - its to say that Quinn probably has a good feel for who can plug in better in the immediate future. Look, ultimately we are powerless to change the direction of the team and the front office. Even still, this is a coaching staff and front office that got us to the Super Bowl in two short years and rebuilt a defense into a great looking unit before the injuries poured in. They deserve the benefit of the doubt, even if the initial returns are frustrating and painful to watch. Its time for fans to give Dan Quinn the benefit of the doubt he has earned.