ATLANTA -- When Dan Quinn took over as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons earlier this year, he must have known there would be exciting times as well as a ton of work on the agenda. There’s always a healthy combination of both in the NFL.
He also had to prepare himself for the tough decisions required of the head coach. Quinn is in the midst of handling one of his biggest coaching dilemmas to date.
On Friday, during Atlanta’s first preseason game of the 2015 season, he chose to rest the top two running backs on his depth chart after both second-year player Devonta Freeman and rookie Tevin Coleman missed the entire week of practice with hamstring injuries.
Even though neither played, they both suited up -- which was by design.
“That was a part of their rehab, and this is our first time going together through the process,” Quinn said. “There is a real process for getting ready to perform. I wanted them to go through that process, especially for Tevin because this was his first real time. The next game it won’t be, ‘Well what are we doing? How do I go through pregame? How do I get ready?’
“I thought it was a good lesson for those guys and also part of the rehab. I want them to enjoy the time with the guys.”
Atlanta beat Tennessee 31-24.
Whether he played or rested the two, both decisions carried risk. Freeman touched the ball just 95 times during his rookie campaign last season. Coleman hasn’t had a professional run yet. Both could use the repetitions.
But the last thing the Falcons need is one, or both of the backs, to go through the 2015 season with a nagging injury. Hamstring issues take a while to fully heal.
Quinn took the route of rest and then watched his No. 3 rusher, Antone Smith, leave the game with a hamstring injury.
All three backs will be on the shelf for the time being.
“Hopefully, Antone can come back quick,” Quinn said. “We are anticipating seeing Devonta and Tevin getting back into the action, and hopefully they can progress through the week. They’re both working really hard, so they’re getting close.”
Prior to his injury Friday, Smith carried the ball nine times for 18 yards. Ever the explosive running back, Smith has had trouble proving he can step in and flourish as a featured back. After having 38- and 48-yard touchdown runs in Weeks 3 and 4 last year, Smith averaged just 1.9 yards per carry the next five weeks before an injury ended his season.
Smith has never carried the football more than four times in a game during his career. He is explosive, but he hasn’t shown the DNA for being a heavy-duty back.
After Smith on the depth chart Friday was Michael Ford (11 rushes, 20 yards), Jerome Smith (7-25) and Terron Ward (3-6).