I think it’s clear that Michael Turner has proved his worth to the Atlanta Falcons over the past seasons. And while he has definitely slowed down a little, he is still a valuable member of this team, a player who can force defenses into the box and open up things for the offense to hit on play-action passes. He can also do a good deal of damage on his own.
Tony Dungy, the former Indianapolis Colts head coach, made comments the other day that he took exception to the way that Michael Turner is being excluded from this offense to an extent. He made statements that, while Matt Ryan is a fine quarterback, this team was built on running the football and playing defense, and Mike Smith need not forget it. He really called for Michael Turner to be the featured part of the offense once again.
There is lots of respect for Tony Dungy around the league, and I enjoy watching the guy. But I think he’s dead wrong. Michael Turner isn’t being completely phased out– he is being used in a more specific role. At a time, he carried well over 25 times per game, over 100 yards per game, and really carried the offense up and down the field. But now, he’s not.
Matt Ryan is the focal point of this offense now, and he’s damn good at doing it. It might be a different story if the offense had been really struggling all season long, but it hasn’t. And that comes with the Falcons throwing the ball more times per game than they run it. Turner is still very valuable. He is great in short yardage situations, he is great at the end of the game to eat up the clock and close out the game, and he is great at wearing down defenses. But he is no longer needed to be the focal point of the offense. Jacquizz Rodgers can shoulder some of the burden, and you don’t lose anything in pass protection, and he offers a lot as a receiving option. Turner is specialized, and his role is going to be decreased. But his specialization is exactly what the Falcons need on this team right now. The fact that his role is slightly diminished doesn’t say so much about Turner. It says much more about the progression and maturation of Matt Ryan.