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How injury led to opportunity for several Falcons in 2015

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For Devonta Freeman, Kemal Ishmael, and Nate Stupar, 2015 was a year of unexpected opportunities.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like a distant memory now, but Tevin Coleman actually opened up the Falcons' season as the starting running back. In the Week 1 win over Philadelphia, he rushed 20 times for 80 yards, and in Week 2, he had nine carries for 32 yards and a touchdown...and then he got hurt.

That injury opened the door for Devonta Freeman, who seized the job and never gave it back. As is often the case in the NFL, where players get hurt and lose weeks of their seasons on the regular, the Falcons' 2015 season saw opportunities delivered for several young players.

Devonta Freeman

As mentioned, he got in the game as the starter versus the Dallas Cowboys and blew up, rushing 30 times for 141 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't really cool down until Week 11 against San Francisco, and while his last several games looked a lot more pedestrian than his huge ones early on, he never gave the job back to Coleman. He'll open 2016 as the favorite to start, as well.

Kemal Ishmael

The 24-year-old found plenty of opportunity last year, as well, and he ends the 2015 season as the Falcons' highest-graded safety, per Pro Football Focus. He was productive and effective in relief of William Moore over the last three weeks of the season, putting up eight tackles, one 84 yard interception, and a pair of pass deflections. If Moore is gone in 2016, Ishmael should be competing for a starting gig.

Nate Stupar

Stupar has a reputation as a special teams ace, and that's deserved, but he was a surprisingly effective linebacker when called upon. Besides his huge fumble return, Stupar played at least semi-effective coverage and proved to be a solid tackler. He should go into 2016 with a backup role, at least.

Who stepped up due to injury, in your opinion?