Devonta Freeman Won't Play Sunday vs. Panthers with Knee Injury

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2018

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 06:  Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons is tackled by Brandon Graham #55 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half at Lincoln Financial Field on September 6, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman will miss Sunday's Week 2 game against the Carolina Panthers because of a knee injury suffered in the team's season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

ESPN's Josina Anderson reported the update Friday.

The fifth-year back has managed to stay in relatively good health throughout the early years of his career. He has played in 14-plus regular-season games in each of his first four seasons in the NFL, appearing in all 16 contests twice.

After putting together back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns, Freeman ran for 865 and seven touchdowns in 14 games last year. He had six carries for 36 yards and three catches for 14 yards against the Eagles before suffering the injury to his right knee.

Freeman's strong start to his career not only earned him a pair of Pro Bowl nods, but it also led to him signing a five-year, $41.25 million extension in August 2017. The 26-year-old will still have four years remaining on his deal following this season.

Atlanta is fortunate to have some depth at running back should Freeman miss time. Former third-round pick Tevin Coleman has seen a gradual increase in numbers with each passing season, finding the end zone a total of 13 times over the past two years. Meanwhile, rookie Ito Smith—who ran for more than 4,500 yards on 5.5 yards per carry at Southern Miss—is also a candidate to receive more carries.

Neither Coleman nor Smith have Freeman's track record in the NFL, but they have the potential to be able to carry the load in the backfield should they be called upon. That said, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the passing attack now faces more pressure to move the ball through the air and open up space on the ground for the running backs.

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