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Falcons' Devonta Freeman ready to move back into starting role
Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Devonta Freeman wanted to be "the man" in the Atlanta Falcons' backfield heading into the season. Now, he'll have chance to show he's capable of maintaining the starting role.
Rookie running back Tevin Coleman, who started the first two games of the season, is expected to miss a couple games after suffering a fractured rib in this past Sunday's 24-20 win against the New York Giants. That means Freeman is preparing to start against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3.
"I always prepare hard," Freeman said. "Whatever coaches ask me to do, I'm going to do."
Freeman was in the lead for the starting role going into training camp, but suffered a more serious hamstring strain than Coleman did during the first week of camp, which kept Freeman out of all four preseason games. Coleman showed an explosive burst upon returning from his hamstring strain and carried that through into the first game of the season, when he rushed for 80 yards on 20 carries in a win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Freeman was pain-free from the hamstring strain going into the Eagles game, but had to settle for a reserve role.
Then Coleman was carted off the field in the second quarter of the Giants game not too long after scoring his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run. Freeman and undrafted rookie Terron Ward played the rest of the way, with Freeman scoring the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard run.
Through two games, Freeman has just 43 yards on 22 carries, averaging 2.0 yard per carry with a long run of 9 yards. Coleman has 112 yards on 29 carries, averaging 3.9 yards per carry with a long run of 20 yards.
Freeman was asked what he could do better moving forward.
"Everything," he said. "I'm the type of back that, I get in a rhythm. Once I get in a rhythm, I get going, get a feel for the game -- knowing how to cut, knowing how to make certain cuts. Just understanding defenses and stuff. When we run the outside zone, pressing the blocks better."
Freeman has seven catches for 63 yards, so everyone knows he can catch the ball out of the backfield. Now, he has to run the ball consistently. The offensive line's continuous improvement in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's outside zone-blocking scheme will help the cause.
After two weeks, the Falcons rank 22nd in the league in rushing at 80.5 rushing yards per game. The Cowboys top the league in rushing defense allowing just 53 rushing yards per game. They held the Eagles' DeMarco Murray to 2 yards on 13 carries in Week 2.
"Everybody's gotta be on the same page," Freeman said. "Once we start clicking ... I feel like everybody's still learning the offense. Once everybody knows what's going on -- how you're supposed to block, how you're not supposed block -- then we'll get things going."
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