Falcons stay focused on defense, select LSU CB Collins
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Atlanta Falcons second-round pick Jalen Collins said Friday night his positive drug tests are ''all behind me.''
The cornerback out of LSU confirmed he had three positive drug tests while in college. Details of the tests, including the drug in question, have not been released.
''What I told the Falcons, what I've been telling everybody, that stuff is behind me,'' Collins said in a telephone interview. ''I've been making smarter decisions all this past year, trying to become a better person and a better football player and I think it's been helping me.''
The Falcons addressed a glaring need by selecting Indiana running back Tevin Coleman in the third round.
Coleman set Indiana's record with 2,036 yards rushing in 2014. He couldn't run at the NFL combine due to a broken foot but ran the 40 in 4.39 seconds in his school's pro day.
Having to address drug tests made for an ominous start to Collins' NFL career. Collins said in the past he was ''making bad decisions and not hanging with the right people.''
Coach Dan Quinn said the key was how Collins addressed the issue.
''When a guy has a setback, how do you recover from it,'' Quinn said. ''Are you able to come back through the other way and do well? That was certainly the case with Jalen. All of us have setbacks. For a guy like him to come back and do well, it answered a lot of questions for me.''
Asked if his research revealed when Collins had his last failed test, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said ''I prefer not to talk about the specifics of that.''
Coleman (6-1, 210) could start for Atlanta as a rookie.
''There's no question he was on our radar in the second round,'' Dimitroff said. ''Defense was on our radar even more so. We were very fortunate to get him in the third round.''
The team released veteran starting running back Steven Jackson and lost backup Jacquizz Rodgers, who signed with the Bears.
Atlanta returns 2014 rookie Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith at the position.
Coleman declared he intends to win the starting job.
''I'm going to come in there and I'm going to get the starting spot,'' Coleman said. ''That's what I'm going to. I mean, whoever is in the starting spot, they're going to have to work because I'm coming in there and working right away.''
Collins (6-2, 198) gives Quinn more size and depth at cornerback. The Falcons have starting cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford returning for 2015. Collins will be expected to compete for a spot in nickel formations.
The Falcons continued to focus on defense after selecting Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley with the No. 8 overall pick in the first round on Thursday night.
Beasley was regarded as perhaps the most explosive edge rusher in the draft. He set a school record with 33 career sacks at Clemson.
Quinn, the former Seattle defensive coordinator, is working to improve an Atlanta defense that was one of the worst in the league last season. The Falcons gave up the most total yards and passing yards and had only 22 sacks, the second-fewest in the league.
Collins, who is from Olive Branch, Mississippi, said the Falcons have been his favorite team since the Michael Vick era.
''When I started watching pro football, Michael Vick was one of my favorite players,'' Collins said. ''After everything went down I just stuck with the team and I've been a Dirty Bird ever since.''
Collins said he is working out without restrictions and has no problems after a medical examination at the NFL combine found what he said was ''a crack'' in his left foot.
Collins left LSU after his junior season. He started in only 10 of his 39 games with the Tigers, including seven starts in 2014 when he led the team with nine pass breakups. He had one interception.
Earlier Friday, Atlanta waived safety Brandon Bishop, offensive lineman Reid Fragel, cornerback Jordan Mabin, linebacker Jacques Smith and running back Ronnie Wingo.
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