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Coleman opens season as Falcons’ starting running back

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — As the offseason progressed, it was clear the Atlanta Falcons would be making a change at running back.

Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith did not return after the 2014 season.

Devonta Freeman, a fourth-round pick last season, returned while Tevin Coleman was selected in the third round of the this year’s draft.

When the Falcons host the Philadelphia Eagles Monday night, Coleman will get the starting nod with Freeman recovering from a hamstring injury.

Head coach Dan Quinn said Wednesday, “That’s (how) we’ll start off. We are still working through some of the things. But (Coleman) is how we’ll start it off.”

Coleman averaged 142.6 rushing yards per game over the final 21 games of his college career at Indiana. He owns the school’s single-season rushing record with 2,036 yards, which he set last season, and he set the mark while going for 228 yards against eventual national champion Ohio State.

The Falcons hope Coleman can add pop to their attack.

With Freeman potentially sidelined, undrafted rookie free agent Terron Ward is in line to be Coleman’s backup. Ward is the younger brother of Denver safety T.J. Ward.

Said Quinn, “I think the combination as a protector and as a runner (was impressive). The detail that he went for on special teams, to really go for it, just jumped out at us right away.”

Notes: Left guard Andy Levitre, who was acquired in a trade from Tennessee, restructured his contract to lower his base salary to $1.5 million, down from $6.5 million. The Falcons made up the difference with a $5 million signing bonus, which gave him a new salary-cap number of $2.875 million. He was set to receive $27.3 million on the original six-year, $46.8 million deal he signed with Tennessee as a free agent after spending four seasons in Buffalo. … Tight end Jacob Tamme, who suffered a back injury in the preseason finale, has been cleared to play and is expected to start against the Eagles.

Free safety Robenson Therezie, an undrafted rookie from Auburn, was a utility player in college and played several positions. The Falcons decided he was best as a free safety. “We saw the big jump when we got to camp,” Quinn said. “He was one that totally made the jump at free safety. Is he a corner? Is he a nickel? Or is he safety? It became really clear that he could be best featured at free safety.”


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