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Atlanta Falcons have 'high hopes' for Devonta Freeman

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With Steven Jackson's Atlanta future in doubt, the Falcons continue to suggest that second-year tailback Devonta Freeman is poised for a major role in 2015.

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Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, coach Dan Quinn said he has "high hopes" for Freeman, last year's fourth-round draft pick.

"My first impression: I can feel the quickness," Quinn said of Freeman. "In our outside zone scheme I thought this is tailor-made for a guy who can really explode off the edge. I love this guy's competitive spirit."

Quinn's high praise came just minutes after general manager Thomas Dimitroff expressed confidence that the smallish Freeman can handle the featured back role in Kyle Shanahan's offense.

A week ago, Shanahan revealed that he "loved" Freeman coming out of Florida State last year.

Freeman caught our eye last summer as a mid-round back capable of breaking more tackles and making more plays than the more highly touted Bishop Sankey of the Titans. He finished his rookie season tops among all Falcons running backs with 30 receptions for 225 yards while adding 65 rushes for 248 yards.

Jackson is expected to be a salary-cap casualty. Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith are impending free agents.

That leaves Freeman as the favorite to open 2015 as the starter even if Dimitroff adds a between-the-tackles complement in free agency or the draft.

Here's what else we learned from the Falcons on Thursday:

» Making it clear that he has no concerns about Julio Jones' multiple foot surgeries, Dimitroff said, "Plain and simple, we want Julio to be here for many years to come."

» Quinn confirmed that cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford have the size and competitive desire to fit the profile for his defensive scheme. Atlanta is also a potential landing spot for Seahawks free agent Byron Maxwell.

» Quinn tempered expectations that the Falcons will add an impact pass rusher in free agency, explaining that guys like Seahawks defensive end/tackle Michael Bennett aren't out there. Dimitroff reportedly had designs on adding Brian Orakpo at this time last year.

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