Falcons' Freeman will have more help at RB against Redskins

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) The Falcons will have another option at running back when Tevin Coleman returns from a rib injury Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

Atlanta's challenge is to take advantage of the replenished depth that Coleman provides without disturbing Devonta Freeman's momentum.

The Falcons (4-0) on Friday listed Coleman as probable for the game. He opened the season as the starter when Freeman was still recovering from a preseason hamstring injury. Coleman then suffered a cracked rib in a Week 2 win over the Giants, opening the door for Freeman to reclaim the job by scoring three touchdowns in each of the last two games.

Freeman's seven rushing touchdowns through four games are the most for any player in Falcons history. He is the only NFL player since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to rush for at least three touchdowns in each of first two starts.

Clearly, Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan doesn't want to mess up a good thing with Freeman.

''We'll see how he handles this week and look at it week to week,'' Shanahan said Thursday of Freeman's productivity when sharing the carries with Coleman. ''One thing you can't argue with is how good he's looked these last two weeks. We've got to make sure we keep that going.''

Freeman had 30 carries for 141 yards and three touchdowns in a 39-28 win at Dallas before adding 14 carries for 68 yards with three scores in last week's 48-21 win over Houston.

He also has been productive as a receiver with a combined 133 yards on 10 catches in those two games.

Freeman has become an overnight fantasy star while vaulting to upper-tier status, just behind quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones, on the Falcons' offense.

Freeman remained modest this week when asked about his breakout games. He said his offensive linemen ''are the reason I'm getting those runs with my little technique and details and stuff. Credit goes all to them.''

Added Freeman: ''A victory with my brothers feels better than anything.''

It is not known what role Coleman will be given against the Redskins. He was limited in Thursday's practice, when Shanahan said ''He's got some pain from the ribs still.''

Coleman was upgraded to probable on Friday's injury report.

Shanahan said he's looking to divide the carries among three backs. He said undrafted rookie Terron Ward, who led the Falcons with 72 yards rushing and a touchdown against Houston, has earned a share of the rotation.

''I think we've got three real good backs,'' Shanahan said. ''I think Ward came in last week and showed he can run real hard also. When you've got three guys you're confident in, both in the run and pass game, it's a good situation.''

Freeman scored on runs of 16, 23 and 6 yards against Houston. He set up another touchdown with a 44-yard reception.

Shanahan said he is not concerned Freeman's production per carry could drop if he is given fewer carries.

''You learn that as you go,'' Shanahan said. ''I never worried about that in the past. Running backs get the ball and they run as hard as they can.''

Shanahan said a running back is different than a quarterback ''when you're trying to get a guy in a rhythm.''

NOTES: LB Justin Durant (elbow) was ruled out of the game. ... Jones (toe, hamstring) is listed as questionable but is expected to play.



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