Atlanta Falcons: Turner not ready for drastic cut in carries

Running backs Michael Turner, left, and Jason Snelling share a laugh between offensive plays in Flowery Branch on Friday. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Running backs Michael Turner, left, and Jason Snelling share a laugh between offensive plays in Flowery Branch on Friday. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons running back Michael Turner is fine with his carries being mildly reduced in 2012.

But if there is a drastic cut from his average of 20.1 carries a game over the last four seasons to say, 10 carries a game, he’ll have a major objection with the new offense that’s being installed in training camp.

“I’ll just see what happens,” Turner said. “Ten carries a game, I don’t think I’ll be that effective like that. But you know, I’m going to make the most of my opportunities like I always have.”

Turner denied he got overweight during the offseason.

The Falcons would like to spread more of the running back carries around to second-year man Jacquizz Rodgers and dependable utility back Jason Snelling, who’s a great pass catcher out of the backfield.

Under former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, the offense revolved around Turner’s bruising runs as he averaged 20.1 carries a game in 59 regular-season games.

He led the league in carries in two of the past four seasons and was second in the league with 301 carries last season. His led the league in carries with 376 in 2008 and 334 in 2010.

“We’ll see,” Turner said about his pending reduction. “It always goes with the flow of the game. You can’t even say that we are going to go out here and throw the ball 50 times or run the ball 30 to 40 times. It all goes with situations. We play situational football.”

Just a little over a week into training camp, the Falcons have spent more time on their passing attack. In one recent 18-play session, they threw 12 passes and had six run plays. In another 18-play session, they threw 13 passes and had five run plays.

“I think my work load has been the same,” Turner said. “We are working on a lot of things right now. You can’t really tell because we are installing the entire offense during training camp.”

(ASIDE: Turner had a little TMZ offseason drama at his mansion. Word is that Delacruz won the bout by a TKO before Turner restored order.)

But the Falcons are 22-3 when Turner runs for more than 100 yards. They are 4-6 when quarterback Matt Ryan passes for more than 300 yards. In a passing league, they’ve won by running the football.

“There has been an emphasis on some passing stuff,” Turner said. “But we have a lot of weapons and guys need to touch the football.”

Turner has accounted for more than 1,450 yards in offense in three of the past four seasons. He’s gone to two Pro Bowls and made the All-Pro team after his mega-2008 season.

The Falcons said they were going to try to reduce his carries last season, but he ended up with 301, second in the league.

Part of Turner’s success can be attributed to the lead-blocking of fullback Ovie Mughelli, who was released over the offseason. Rookie Bradie Ewing and Mike Cox are in a battle to replace the former Pro Bowler.

“These last couple of days, they’ve been going after these linebackers a little bit,” Turner said. “They are looking good, but I don’t know about putting them on Ovie’s level yet. He was a Pro Bowler and they’ve still got work to do.”

New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, just like Mularkey, has leaned heavily on his running game over his past three seasons.

With Koetter at the controls in Jacksonville, Maurice Jones-Drew led the league in carries with 343 in 2011. He was eighth in the league with 299 carries in 2010 and fifth with 312 carries in 2009.

Turner also turned 30 on Feb. 13. Traditionally, turning 30 signals the end of the road for some of the league’s top running backs.

However, Turner may be a little different because he was used sparingly as a reserve in San Diego. He had just 228 carries in four seasons with the Chargers.

The over-30 running back club has been a mixed bag.

Emmitt Smith, Ricky Watters, Curtis Martin and Tiki Barber continued to prosper after turning 30.

However, Jerome Bettis, Shaun Alexander, Marshall Faulk and Eddie George never rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season after turning 30.

There are some anomalies.

John Riggins rushed for more than 1,000 yards at 34 and 35.

Back in 1964, Pittsburgh’s John Henry Johnson rushed for more than 1,000 yards at age 35.

“I can’t worry about my age,” Turner said. “I feel good. I still feel fresh.”

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–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

60 comments Add your comment

Paddy

August 5th, 2012
8:22 pm

Lets turn him loose!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1,699 yard Burner

August 5th, 2012
8:27 pm

Enter your comments here

Falcons4life

August 5th, 2012
8:30 pm

Hey d-led, How many series will the starting offense and defense play this thursday.

futbol

August 5th, 2012
8:37 pm

1st? cut his time and deploy the three headed Monsta

futbol

August 5th, 2012
8:41 pm

Michael M.

August 5th, 2012
8:47 pm

He may as well get use to it cause they just have too many weapons now on offense to just be utilizing running Turner with the ball and hopefully last Season was the end of the so called ” Smitty Ball ” era !

SeasonTicketHolderFalcons

August 5th, 2012
9:04 pm

He won’t be happy with carrying less as he ages more? Time to admit it…He needs to lose some weight and become lighter and more of universal threat. Turner the fat burner!

Mo

August 5th, 2012
9:06 pm

Forget running he should be working on blocking. He was the worst RB in the league on blocking for his QB. Can’t happen. If he won’t block, he shouldn’t get playing time. It’s why they are 22-3 when they run the ball with him. He doesn’t have to block.

ernisTbass

August 5th, 2012
9:19 pm

convert some short yardage situations by running over people like Jerome Bettis and John Riggins and we’ll talk about it

Falcon James

August 5th, 2012
9:38 pm

In my mind, Turner has slowed down a step. I think his averages are up just because of the 3rd and 4th quarter breakaway runs. I think he is a valuable asset, but I would like to see him catching some screen passes and providing some pass protection on 1st and 2nd downs. With all the weapons and a pass happy league, I think his carries will be cut. Our offense has been too vanilla. If we are going to make some changes, unfortunatley, running on 1st and 2 nd down has to change.

hiramsaint

August 5th, 2012
9:38 pm

bettis and riggins are retired plus they didn’t play defense

falconfiend

August 5th, 2012
9:59 pm

Falcons have more weapons at the recievers position. Teams are going to get a new look from the falcons offense. Falcons will not be doing the same things they have done, teams know your tendancies and stuff. turner has to accept and realize this team will be dangerous with more options for the offense.

B'Red

August 5th, 2012
10:04 pm

hiramsant, whats you point, turner dont play defense. When turner gets to the line of scrimmage he has no pop. He cannot grind out 1 and 2 yards when you need them.

JSS

August 5th, 2012
10:38 pm

Lots of shells with no powder and the wrong caliber gun = a worthless arsenal…

Mikey

August 5th, 2012
11:08 pm

Turner will be a beast this year! He is not over the hill. I just reallly hope that he practices catching the footbal during this training camp… say 500 catches a day until he is as big a threat floating out of the backfield as Jason Snelling. He may never actually need to catch one, he just needs the defense to think he is capable of catching one. Seriously, his ability to catch passes can do a LOT to help this offense. We also know that Julio, Rodey, Tony, Quiz and Jason are of very little value in this offense if they never get the rock.

tmc

August 5th, 2012
11:22 pm

Turner better be concentrating on running harder and not how many times he runs the ball per game!

The hand writing is on the wall here. This is the Falcons way of giving MT a chance to regain a powerful “explosive” style. Or his large butt will be on the unemployment line next year. He’s fortunate to be with this team this year… He’s already lost the confidence and belief of a large portion of Falcons fans.

If he starts slow… it’s time to move on and go with Quiz and others.

[...] Atlanta Falcons This entry was posted in Atlanta Falcons and tagged Atlanta, carries, drastic, Falcons, ready, Turner. Bookmark the permalink. ← Newton gets cheers at Fan Fest (The Associated Press) [...]

oldfart

August 5th, 2012
11:58 pm

If he doesn’t want his work load to drop he needs to lighten his load.

DR. FALCON

August 6th, 2012
12:21 am

TURNER IS AN HORSE! THAT’S WHY WE SIGNED HIM PRIOR TO THE 2008 SEASON! LET HIM EARN IS CONTRACT, AS A BELL COW! IF NOT FOR A CRACKBACK LOW TACKLE AROUND HIS ANKLES, AGAINT CAROLINA IN GAME #10, IN 2009, TURNER WOULD’VE RUSHED FOR OVER 1,000 YDS., IN EACH SEASON AS A FALCON! FOR 6YRS, 43 MILLION, LET TUTNER, BE TURNER!

DR. FALCON

August 6th, 2012
12:48 am

NOTHING BETTER THAN A PISSED OFF 30 YEAR OLD RB, WHO WANTS TO PROVE EVERYBODY WRONG!!! HERE IS HOPING THAT TURNER STAYS PISSED OFF! 1,417YDS RUSHING 13TD’S! MARK IT DOWN! RUN MICHAEL, RUN!

DR. FALCON

August 6th, 2012
12:52 am

SAINTS FANS: YOU LOST TO THE WINLESS RAMS! WORRY ABOUT YOUR OWN POSITION BATTLES! STAY OFF OUR WEBSITE!!!! BY THE WAY, I RAN INTO SEAN PAYTON, WORKING CHECK OUT LINE, AT WALMARTN IN GRIIFIN!

brookings

August 6th, 2012
1:24 am

Ummm…enjoy your saints W last night!!lol

brookings

August 6th, 2012
1:26 am

DR.: I saw him eating dinner at McDonalds in Walmart in Alpharetta with a headset on and talkink Xs and Os with Brees!

J-Lo

August 6th, 2012
1:39 am

In response to Mo: Turner is actually an excellent blocker according to statistics which measure the number of hurries, hits, and sacks allowed.

In response to many other critics: Turner is statistically not a horrible pass catcher for a running back. More like average. Also, I have considered that the disappearance of Turner’s “burst” last year may have to do with developing a tendency to not hit the line so fast because it was taking longer for the line to open holes for him, if at all. Just a possibility. Also, Turner lead the NFL last year in “elusive rating” (which is a combination of yards after contact and number of tackles broken) by a wide margin. Finally, if the Falcons are less predictable this year it should help him a lot.

All of this being said, I believe that Turner’s main problem is that he has not been effective in the playoffs or against elite teams. Of his best fifteen or so rushing performances as a Falcon (which is where the bulk of his stats are derived), only two were against top notch competition. He had one great game vs New Orleans, and one against Green Bay in 2010 before they caught fire and roasted Turner and the Falcons in the playoffs. Some say that Matt Ryan can’t win the big game, but Ryan has shown that he is clutch and can perform well against great teams. If the blame for Atlanta’s lack of playoff success has to be put on any one individual, I would say Mularkey first, but Turner in a close second. Turner has flopped in the playoffs. He doesn’t even look like the same player in the playoffs. It’s like he’s in slow motion and has vertigo or something.

Finally, arguments which tout the Falcons record when turner gets over 20 carries or over 100 yards are classic examples of inferring cause where there is only correlation. It is like saying that the closer in baseball causes the team to win, because Turner plays the role of closer for the Falcons. While he also plays as a starter for the Falcons and has won some games for us, the problem with the statistic mentioned makes it seem like giving Turner 20 carries is a magic formula for victory, which it definitely is not. One more thing, when Turner starts the game looking horrible, he usually finishes the game that way. That is why I do not understand his argument that he needs more carries to be effective. If he doesn’t have much positive yardage by the third or fourth series, it has been safe to say that he will not be effective for that entire game.

Great Falconi

August 6th, 2012
2:11 am

I’m sure they’d like to keep Turner somewhere in the 225-250 range for the season. As long as the guy is getting some yards, he’ll get the ball. That being said, Quizz and Snelling need to be on the field, and not just in passing situations. The more weapons you have and utilize, the tougher you are to defend.

J-Lo

August 6th, 2012
6:09 am

I looked up the stats again and I was wrong to say that Turner is not a horrible pass catcher, statistically. He is pretty bad with the drops. Drops between 15 and 20 percent of passes every year.

DC Dirty Bird

August 6th, 2012
6:27 am

Our record with Turner over 100 yds are more of a testament of what the defense has done than how efficient our offense performs when the focus is on him. A perfect example was the Houston game. We were playing from behind and had to throw the ball. Matty goes over 300, but we lose because of drops and the defense not being stout in the 2nd half against a rookie quarterback. Quizz is no MJD, but he can tote the rock, hits the hole hard, catch passes out the backfield, and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in there to protect Matty. Turner won’t get the carries because he won’t be on the field as much. We’ll run a lot of two-back sets with Quizz and Snelly much like Jax did with MJD and Greg Jones. That set will give Matty the flexibility to run with Snelly as the lead blocker, get Quizz out in the flats while Snelly protects, or run a FB smash after spreading them out. Should be exciting if Koetter lets Matty run the show.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 6th, 2012
6:53 am

J-Lo — I talked to him about his pass catching and that didn’t get it in this story. I’ll probably get a note on this in tomorrow. His 17 catches last season was a career high. In this training camp, he has joined the wide receiver group before the start of practice. He is catching about 50 to 60 balls a day with Roddy, Tony and Harry Douglas before practice. He got mad when I asked him about improving as a receiver. He said, “Damn, Led you see me out here every morning catching passes.” It was funny. But he’s working on it.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 6th, 2012
7:02 am

ernisTbass – Turner breaks a bushel of tackles. He broke 42 tackles on 318 touches for a 13.2 percent ratio, which was second in the league in 2011, according to Football Outsiders. http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2012/broken-tackles-2011

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 6th, 2012
7:05 am

Falcons4life — 1, maybe 2 at the most is what I’m expecting. I haven’t asked Smitty yet so I’m just guessing here. Some players think they’ll play more because of the lack of contact under the new CBA rules. Some of the linemen will stay in longer because they are competing (Reynolds/Konz/Johnson).

Me Too

August 6th, 2012
7:13 am

If he doesn’t like reduced carries, RELEASE HIM. He is not and should not be the focus point of the offense. Anytime he carries the ball is a lost opportunity for a well balanced offense.

This statistic means absolutely nothing and there is no correlation in the two stats. If you look at the losses for the past 4 years, you will see he failed when needed the most against the better teams.

“But the Falcons are 22-3 when Turner runs for more than 100 yards. They are 4-6 when quarterback Matt Ryan passes for more than 300 yards.”

Samuel

August 6th, 2012
7:53 am

It’s not about Turner getting his touches what we have here is a team with multiple backs who are very talented. All the backs should be used in a way to get to the Superbowl.Besides this is a passing league and to beat the elite teams you have to put up passing numbers. During the course of the game the coordinator should get a feel for how to utilize all the talent he has. Turner can really be utilized with a lead in the fourth quarter when the defense is tired. Also defenses will dictate what plays to use…

Byrdz Eye

August 6th, 2012
8:02 am

let’s face it, the Falcons have won their games by running the ball – this eats up the clock and keeps our defense off the field. God knows our defense can only get off the field after the other team scored…

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 6th, 2012
8:17 am

Me Too – Calm down. You can release a 1,450 yard back!!

Gamer

August 6th, 2012
8:51 am

Turner’s low performance in regular season or playoff games against better teams were not altogether his fault…Better teams stacked the line of scrimmage(box), challenging Matt Ryan to beat them with his weak arm and Ryan couldn’t do it.

Hopefully, Ryan’s offseason workouts to strengthen his body with counter opposing teams daring him to win games with his arm strength pays off. His chemistry with his receivers is a must. His knowledge of utilizing the screen game is crucial.

IT’S TIME FOR FALCONS OFFENSE TO DOMINATE GAMES….NO MORE EXCUSES FOR RYAN’S POOR PLAY.

FALCONS ON THREE, DOMINATE!

Gamer

August 6th, 2012
8:54 am

*typo 2para. (will counter opposing teams)

Big Crimson 75

August 6th, 2012
10:02 am

Turner is still our best option @ RB.
He’s gained right under 5300 yards in 4 Years.
Remember, we win when Turner controls the games!!

Park it yourself Metallica Breath

August 6th, 2012
10:46 am

I think Turner’s attitude is great. I want him to disagree with reducing his carries. If he wants to have more carries he’ll earn them and work for it. This is nothing but a good thing, if he had acquiesced towards it that would be surprising and grounds for thinking about a release.

MR. ATL

August 6th, 2012
11:09 am

@Gamer, it’s not that Ryan couldn’t deliver as you can reference his stats (4000+ yds), it’s that the playcalling was stubborn and foolish at times. Especially considering we had to rely heavily on an offensive line that couldn’t produce AND all the while losing Ovie. Turner’s still the guy. If we’re getting beat at the line of scrimmage, what more can you ask of Turner?!? We need to be demanding more from the O-Line. Turner’s doing his job.

BK

August 6th, 2012
11:12 am

TURNER STILL HAS IT, MATT RYAN NEEDS TO GET IT, HOPEFULLY HES STRENGTHEN HIS ARM THIS YEAR IN TRAINING CAMP..THIS TEAM IS LOADED UP TO MATT TO DELIVER WHEN IT COUNTS.. GO BIRDS!!

John

August 6th, 2012
11:42 am

I think that the Falcons offense will succeed more when Ryan shows better consistency. Turner, at this point of his career, can be a major boost as long as the Falcons go pass first, run second. I hope that Koetter was looking at the Saints’ first string offense last night as they picked apart the Cardinals with the screen pass. Face it, it works, and with someone like Jacquizz the Falcons can use him the way Brees (the Saints’ real coach) uses Ingram and Thomas.

Operate a pass-first offense with the screen pass and then use Turner 15-20 times a game. It gets Matt Ryan and the receivers going and then Turner can keep defenses honest.

True Falcon Fan

August 6th, 2012
12:49 pm

It’s really funny to hear folks with zero knowledge of what they speak. Especially when one of you start using comments like no shells, no powder, wrong caliber = ZERO of the probability of knowing which end of a gun the bullet travels from…………LOLOLOL — Smoke on that awhile ZERO

Go Falcons

78dawg

August 6th, 2012
12:56 pm

I said they should have cut his butt during the offseason. I’m sick of his one yard carries …hit once and he goes down…he is a major reason we couldn’t run short yardage…cut him now…

Elvis the falcon fan

August 6th, 2012
12:57 pm

Aw Shucks…you mean we dont get to see Turner tip-toe up to the line and fall down as much?

MoCutter

August 6th, 2012
1:06 pm

The fact is Michael Turner has done everything he has been asked to do for this offense and did it at a Pro Bowl level. He has not caught many balls because he was not asked to catch balls, he was asked to run the rock. Whoever the clown is that said Turner does a poor job in pass protection in just clueless. In 2011 Michael Turner ranks #2 in the entire league in pass blocking efficiency, he allowed 1 pressure the entire year…1!! I suggest some of you learn more about the game before you start spouting off at the mouth. Only the turn coat fake behind Falcon fan would want to cut a guy that has preformed to the level of a Michael Turner. If the Saints had Turner they would probably have more rings than they already do. Turner has hit the 30 mark but still has a few great years left. It is a shame that some ignorant Falcons fans that have so little knowledge of the game and have probably never worn a jock strap(of their own) in life would want to disrespect a guy who has done so much for the organization. It’s crazy that he gets bad mouthed here so much and you want him gone when some of you think a Brian Finneran should still be on the team catching 3.3 footballs a season. I’ll guarantee you the QB of this team loves Michael Turner. There is no greater feeling for a young QB than to have a beast in the backfield that he can turn around and hand the ball to 25 times a game. Coach has already said he expects Turner to get around 300 carries but not over that. 300 carries at 4 YPC equals 1200 yards. Turner will be just fine and like he has done every year he has worn the Falcons emblem, he will do his job at a high level.

BK

August 6th, 2012
2:10 pm

JOHN,
YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD COULD NOT AGREE MORE WITH YOUR COMMENTS..
GO FALCONS!!

Gamer

August 6th, 2012
2:17 pm

My first and last time responding to your critism of my outlook on the Falcons.

To Mr. Atl, I watched every Falcon’s game last season….Ryan’s 4000plus yard season wasn’t due to his ability arm. More than 1500 of his yards was the dynamic play of his receivers adjusting their routes to some of his horrible wobbly passes. Especially, Julio’s and Roddy’s route adjustments.

Ryans deep balls floated in air like blimps or punts. By the time his deep balls arrive to his targeted receiver, a crowd of dbs and safeties would be all over them. Sometimes linebackers would be there too…

Ryan’s arm strenght had better improved or its going to be a long dreadful season for Falcons playoff hopes.

I never said that Turner is a perfect runningback… Turner can work on his pass blocking and his short yardage performance.

However, Ryan being the starting qb is the offense focal point. He must perform well, NO EXCUSES.

FALCONS ON THREE, DOMINATE!

D Thunker

August 6th, 2012
2:46 pm

Anyone know where Turners yards per carry rank over the last couple years? Anyone can get 100 yards per game with enough touches. I do not recall Roddy complaining when JJ came into the mix. Seems to me Turner is being selfish. Let’s be a team!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 6th, 2012
2:51 pm

D. Thunker — Turner’s yards per carry — 2008 — 4.5; 2009 — 4.9; 2010 –4.1 and 2011 — 4.5. 4.0 is considered Good.