As the state of the franchise continues (Check out Cornerbacks and Quarterbacks) we look at the running back position. This position on the team could be in flux this season with some changes certainly on the way.
We start by looking at Michael Turner, the franchise tailback for the Falcons throughout the Mike Smith era. There is no question that Turner has been a magnificent player for this franchise but with the offense moving to a more passing attack and his high cap rating for the upcoming season, do the Falcons part ways with Turner?
My immediate response would have to be no, while Turner is slowing down as time goes on, which is to be expected from an over 30 tailback, he can still offer something to the Falcons offense. If Dirk Koetter does what he needs to do and creates an expansive, vertical offense, the value of Turner clearly diminishes as the better fit for that offense is young Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who adds a great deal as a pass catcher out of the backfield, something that Turner really poses little threat at.
Even so, Turner for me still should be the starting tailback, (taking nothing away from Jacquizz, who i rate very highly) he is still a physical runner which could add an another element to the offense and could mean he will be be more effective as the secondary focus in the offense rather than the primary one in Mularkey’s offense.
I also fear that Jacquizz would struggle to take every snap over the entire season and splitting carries 50/50 with Turner could be a devastating combination.
Talking of Jacquizz Rodgers, this guy could become a very dangerous weapon in the Koetter offense. He has exceptional power for a little guy and (using a Mayockism) is “quicker than fast” which works very nicely in between and outside the tackles. Under Mularkey, Rodgers role was limited to the 3rd down, situation type back, but in 2012 his role will be expanded a great deal and could end up having a Darren Sproles type impact for this offense.
In 2012, i would expect Turner and Rodgers to get the lion share of the carries, what are the Falcons going to do behind those two guys.
Jason Snelling has been a very nice role player, and will again search for a big deal in free agency. If he doesn’t find one he could be back on another one year deal as his versatility offers something different from the other two.
The Falcons carried 4 running backs last year, with the final one being Antoine Smith. His role was limited exclusively to a special teams player and did very well as a gunner on punts most notably. I’m not convinced that he could make our roster as a running back alone, which is why his play on special teams is so important. He will be in camp again and could make the roster unless some more talented special teams players are in the mix.
If Turner stays i can see the Falcons making any moves for a running back in free agency. In the draft a few names that could be possibilities should Turner leave is Baylor RB Terrance Gannaway, Temple RB Bernard Pierce and Virginia Tech RB David Wilson.