Atlanta Falcons: Turner, Rodgers and Snelling form RB committee





By Michael Cunningham

FLOWERY BRANCH — If the Falcons are moving past their days of pounding away at opponents with running back Michael Turner then it could mean they are just catching up to the times.

The NFL’s era of feeding the ball to one big featured back have faded in favor of spreading the ball around to multiple backs with different styles. For the Falcons, their 24-23 victory at Tampa Bay might have been the beginning of their full embrace of that trend.

Jacquizz Rodgers played 31 offensive snaps against the Buccaneers compared to Turner’s 23. With the exception of Atlanta’s lopsided victory at San Diego, when Rodgers got extra playing time with the game in hand, it was the first time this season Turner didn’t get the most snaps among the running backs.

“We feel like Jacquizz is a very viable option to carry the football and has done a nice job for us,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “It has become more of the vogue thing to do, to have a ‘running back by committee.’”

Atlanta’s victory against Tampa Bay showed the potential benefits of using multiple backs.

Jason Snelling had three catches for 33 yards, Rodgers had a 32-yard catch and a 20-yard run among his 79 total yards and Turner powered in for a three-yard touchdown for one highlight in a 13-carry, 17-yard day.

“For one thing, it keeps the defense guessing,” Snelling said. “We are similar but different styles of running and what we can do.”

The upshot is that the Falcons are running the ball with less frequency and, when they do run, Turner is getting it less often.

In each of Turner’s three previous full seasons in Atlanta (he missed five games in 2009), his rushing attempts were remarkably consistent: 67 percent of the team’s carries in 2008, 67 percent in 2010, and 66.4 percent in 2012. This season, Turner has 62.7 percent of Atlanta’s carries.

Earlier in the season Turner said he’s a rhythm runner who needs a lot of carries to be effective. Now he said he’s learned to stay focused and be ready when he does get his chances.

“I am pretty much used to my role now,” Turner said. “It’s been an adjustment, no doubt about that. I’ve just got to do what I’ve got to do.”

Turner’s efficiency is at an all-time low: He’s gained 3.5 yards per carry this season and, without dramatic improvement in production, is on pace for the worst mark of his career. His previous low was 4.1 yards per carry in 2010.

Smith said he believes Turner still can be an efficient runner even with fewer carries.

“I certainly do,” he said. “We have stated from the very beginning that we were not going to look up at the end of the season and see that one back has 300 carries. That’s not the way this offense is built now.”

With 60 carries, Rodgers already has surpassed his total of 57 from his rookie season of 2011. At 5-6 and 196 pounds it’s not clear how many carries he could withstand though he’s certainly shown a willingness to run inside.

“I can run between the tackles as well as run outside,” said Rodgers, Atlanta’s fifth-round selection in the 2011 draft. “I’ve been playing running back all my life so its’ a natural instinct. Once you get it, just run tough.”

Falcons fullback Mike Cox said Rodgers is a “strong dude” for his size.

“Quick in space but he also runs hard [so] it takes more than one person to bring him down,” Cox said.

Rodgers’ performance against the Bucs earned him notice among experts scrutinizing Atlanta’s lackluster running game, with NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders going so far as to say: “Jacquizz Rodgers needs to be the starter [because] he gives the Falcons a lot more production.”

ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski praised Rodgers for his ability to make plays in space, especially in the passing game, but noted that he’s “not a power runner.”

“They’ve got to be careful they don’t get too far away from their core values of running the football,” Jaworski said.

Snelling said the Falcons feel the same way.

“We are still striving to run the ball and be a physical running team,” Snelling said. “But we have guys who can do different things: catching screens, catching the ball out of the backfield, short passes. Things like that can work as runs, too. Just having that diversity with our backs can help the offense a lot.”

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78 comments Add your comment

DC

November 28th, 2012
5:45 am

First? I said it a couple of days ago – MT should stop tip toeing and just try to pick up speed with his big body as he did on the TD in Tampa. Then he could be very effective in short yardage situations

DC

November 28th, 2012
6:00 am

They should split plays like TJ Duckett and W.Dunn did in 2002 or 2003. I never cared if TJ was picking up huge yards per carry, but he made sure that in short yardage situations a first down was a slam dunk!

DC

November 28th, 2012
6:01 am

And third! Triple crown :-)

Raphael Hardnett

November 28th, 2012
6:06 am

Michael Turner has lost the it factor.

z6ne falcon

November 28th, 2012
6:31 am

Mike Turner is the new Eddie George… There have been few big backs other than “The Bus” that were still productive later in career. Turner will be a #2 back again. Should definitely consider losing weight if he wants to eat.

Rod "straight outta augusta" Johnson

November 28th, 2012
6:34 am

Looks like Michael Turner will be joining the long list of former Falcons this offseason. Dude is officially #burnedOUT. This proves that no matter how few carries a RB received before they were 30…when Father Time comes calling…we all gotta answer.

seldomfound

November 28th, 2012
7:57 am

WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH ANTOINE SMITH? Is he fumble prone? He’s obviously fast and hungry.. why doesn’t he get in the rotation?

Treeofwoe

November 28th, 2012
8:33 am

And Turner’s carries should be more like 33% max. He is a one-dimensional back atm. He can’t catch and he doesn’t have any burst to the line anymore. He’s been an important part of turning the Falcons around over the last 5 years but he just doesn’t have it anymore. We as a fanbase recognize and thank him more than he knows for it. However, for the last year and a half when he’s in the backfield the defense KNOWS he won’t be passed the ball and that they have 3 seconds to close to the hole. It’s hurting our offense and everyone outside of Flowery branch can see it. Please please please…continue to decrease his carries far far south of 40%. Less MT carries = more Falcons Offensive explosion.

observer

November 28th, 2012
8:45 am

You use 3 RB’s when you don’t have one good one. Just about every Turner carry is a wasted down. When he gets the ball on 1st down, count on 2nd and 10 or 12.

Treeofwoe

November 28th, 2012
8:55 am

I credit DW from the Falcoholic with the following breakdown:

Bucs game…………………
Turner: 1.3 ypc rushing on 13 carries, 1 TD, 4.3 ypc on 3 receptions, 8 runs for no gain or loss or 62% of his touches resulted in 2nd and longs or longers

Quizz: 4.9 ypc rushing on 10 carries, 1TD, 15 ypc on 2 receptions, 3 runs for no gain or loss or 30% of his touches resulted in 2nd and long

Snelling: 11 ypc on 3 receptions

Snelling and Quizz deserve more snaps period. Turner’s overall 3.5 yards per carry is deceptive when you really look at what he does to our offense at the moment compared to the production Quizz and Snell could be giving us.

ijonathan

November 28th, 2012
9:44 am

For Ron Jaworski to say that the Falcons “core value” is running the football…wow, no wonder he got kicked off the Monday Night Football broadcast.

Man...

November 28th, 2012
9:59 am

I like it. Use Quizz and Snelling in space, and down in the redzone, use Turner to bash it in, or Quizz to the outside. We did that last week, worked well. Anyways, what’s the word on Babin?

Falcon James

November 28th, 2012
10:07 am

Amazing that it took so long for the commentators, Jaworski and Sander, to notice something that most of the Fan on this blog already know. Turner is on the downhill slide. His production has cost him the starting position. If the Falcon benched him or only played him a special teams, I doubt too many people would notice.

DC

November 28th, 2012
10:09 am

DC get a different name…been here longer haha

Samuel

November 28th, 2012
10:14 am

The Falcons are a passing team now, you need several backs who can be effective and keep the defense guessing. I think Thursday’s game for the Falcons will hinge on the offensive and defensive line being successful.

Dr. Warren

November 28th, 2012
10:17 am

Stupid. Just stupid. Why are changes so hard to make for people when the obvious is slapping them in the face? It’s like the guy whose girlfriend is cheating on him but he’s the only one who can’t see it. This guy Turner rarely produces anymore, Mike Smith. Make a change. The two times Snelling started a couple years ago he ran very well. Do something about it now or kiss your Super Bowl chances good-bye. It is that simple.

4BsihTneeS

November 28th, 2012
10:30 am

N E W O R L E A N S S A I N T S – 3 8

A C A N ‘ T A F A L C A N ‘ T S – 2 0

Young Turk

November 28th, 2012
10:35 am

Esquire

November 28th, 2012
10:37 am

WE ARE THE MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS!!!!

Michael M.

November 28th, 2012
10:37 am

@ STB4…………….After the Falcons kick your sorry Team’s butt Thursday night, promise me you will never come back on here again…………………..Guess what dummy, your Team’s Season will utterly come to a pitiful end on Thursday night football !

Brian Hunt

November 28th, 2012
10:45 am

Turner still has ability, but his skill set doesn’t fit the current offense. The current O-line can’t provide him with adequate blocking for his running style. Rodgers is slightly better for the current group. The O-line is still this team’s Achilles heel.

Section 322

November 28th, 2012
11:02 am

Pick One: Super Bowl Ring OR Pwerball Winning Ticket ($500M)

4BsihTneeS

November 28th, 2012
11:06 am

@Michael M. : It’s alright Mickey, your team should still make it to the playoffs after they lose on Thursday.

Marcus

November 28th, 2012
11:11 am

For the 2012 draft, I was hoping Doug Martin would drop to us in the 3rd …missed by a long shot.

Now this year I hope that either one of these guys are there in the 3rd round or later for the picking:

Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor
Michgan State RV Le’Veon Bell* (underclassman, may not declare for 2013 draft)
Vanderbilt RB Zack Stacy
Oregon RB Kenjon Barner – may be too much of a ‘Quizz clone, not big enough, bu tcan you imagine him teamed up with the other RBs getting in open space …

Starship 1

November 28th, 2012
11:18 am

observer

November 28th, 2012
8:45 am
You use 3 RB’s when you don’t have one good one. Just about every Turner carry is a wasted down. When he gets the ball on 1st down, count on 2nd and 10 or 12.—————————————————
I agree about Turner being the wasted down. However, Snelling and Jaquizz are more productive to the hole than Turner. Either Atlanta has to find better plays for his slow body, or use him as a decoy, cause every team that plays the Falcons knows that he can be hit behind the line with a forearm for a loss. MT’s has no vertical leap to get past the outstrected arms of of a defender-and is so very slow from the point of contact-to the timing of getting to where the hole may be open. Turner doesn’t even have the speed to get to the outside where he used to turn the corner. He’s just fat and out of shape and is a major liability. Help me to understand-why during the Tampa game-the Falcons running game was working all during the first half and then Mike Smith decided to insert Turner into the game on first down-as a result-the Falcos were always caught in a loss of down and yards. Quizz and Snelling was silent. Could MT’s plays be contractual instead of doing what’s best for the team? Somebody-please comment.

PMC

November 28th, 2012
11:18 am

and Jaquizz Rodgers is the new chairman of that committee. So far, they have been about as effective as a congressional comittee, I’m going to need a little more from both congress and the RB committee to close out the year please.

Kashi

November 28th, 2012
11:34 am

DOL, do you know if tomorrow’s game will be telecast on Atlanta local channel?

PMC

November 28th, 2012
11:35 am

Kashi, it will be on WATL.

yeahsure

November 28th, 2012
11:38 am

i say we use snelling and quizz in short yardage situations as well.

I will not discount what Turner has meant to this franchise. However, the good teams like the Patriots know when to move on from the older players. It’s not a knock on Turner, it’s just what is better for this team. On all the Turner short yardage TDs, he had holes big enough for Quizz or Snelling to get in with ease. Turner, love the guy but its time to move on.

The Biscuit

November 28th, 2012
11:39 am

I am in with whoever brought up the name Antoine “The Forgotten One” Smith. This guy is a Falcon and Coach Smith puzzlement to me. The few times I’ve seen him run in pre-season games, he has looked great. Big, fast, strong, and runs hard and downhill. Has to be tough because he plays on the special teams covering kick offs and punts. But he was drafted as a running back. Seems like he’s been on the team three or four years now. I guess that means he is too good to not cut, but not good enough to ever get to run the ball in a game? Not even once? Or twice? What’s up with that? Confounds me to no end…

The Lowly Aint's

November 28th, 2012
11:41 am

Seen & aint’s fans, you being here is ok, you’re constant portrayal of the aints being some sort of power house is quite laughable. Someone who foams at the mouth about particlular stats without acknowledgment of their teams history is just ignorant. The last few “wonder” years of the aint’s is all that’s there…….before that ……….nothing. The Falcons were winning division titles and appearing in playoff games waaaaay before the aint’s. I mean, come on 1966 to 2000 without a playoff win….dude thats horrible. Face it, the last few years for the aint’s is just a flash in the pan……soon to be over. You my friend are the delusional one, for sure…..read some books on your sorry team’s history. The way you sound on these boards is quite embarrassing and stupid. Hope you didn’t throw your paper bag away……

Mike Smith

November 28th, 2012
11:44 am

Well I also thought Stephen Nicholas could cover Jimmy Graham. Maybe this year was different than last year when Graham burned us.

falconsrus

November 28th, 2012
11:45 am

Seen did you “see” the look in Brees’ eyes while the Niners were racking him up? lol

Check Please

November 28th, 2012
11:48 am

falconsrus
November 28th, 2012
11:45 am

Seen did you “see” the look in Brees’ eyes while the Niners were racking him up? lol
———————————————————–
I did !!!!!! LMAO, we laughed about that all night !!!!!! He better get back to factory Will y wonk a is going to see he’s missing !!!! HAHAHAHA

Dave 3

November 28th, 2012
11:51 am

LOL, Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-do

L.A. Mont

November 28th, 2012
11:51 am

“Running Back by committee”……(translation)…..we don’t have a #1 RB. If you have a stud like Peterson, Gore, Martin, Johnson, McCoy, there is no RB by committee. Trust every team wants a stud RB, don’t get it twisted.

DMZ

November 28th, 2012
11:54 am

Brees……a slightly improved Doug Flutie……

Mike Nolan

November 28th, 2012
11:56 am

Let’s stick to what we have and stop wasting downs on Turner. He did good on his time in Atlanta and we’re thankful for what he did.

Now it’s time to start looking for his replacement and also a compliment to JR .. Gimme some Le’Veon Bell …. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_NUFkRgUw8

Damn that’s a fine player!

4BsihTneeS

November 28th, 2012
11:58 am

Brees….who owns the Acan’ta fal can’ts!

Heat Check

November 28th, 2012
11:59 am

Breesus is 11-2 vs Atlanta… the 49ers you “ain’t”

Mike is Back

November 28th, 2012
12:01 pm

DLed, really good stuff, I have seen what Koetter can do with the passing game…now I want to see some of that magic with RBs…both Rogers and Snell are accomplished pass catchers coming out backfield…GOOD move by MSmith…this will give these teams in the NFC… even more to think about… going into playoff.

I would like to see MSmith show more confidence in his running game…when it comes to closing games out…don’t always rely on… turning the game over to your defense and running out the clock…STAY ON THE ATTACK!!!

I gotta give Samuels a BIG SHOUT OUT…CLEARLY, he was playing through a lot of pain…I remember the last play of the game…watching Samuel grimacing in pain in the end zone…I said then…we gotta knock some of these teams out…it can’t keep coming down to the last play of the game…when you got weapons like the BIRDS.

RISE UP MIKE SMITH…LET’S GO…LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ronhen24

November 28th, 2012
12:03 pm

I agree, Antoine Smith is a good RB out of FSU with great speed. Look to getting the ball in his hands and see what he can do on the big stage. It is ashame he cannot touch the field other than special teams.

DMZ

November 28th, 2012
12:03 pm

Brees…won’t be around long……especially when his daddy heads off to Dallas

Say what

November 28th, 2012
12:06 pm

I’m a paying fan, and I agree with The Biscuit. It sure would be nice to see Antoine Smith play RB. If we’re going to the comittee aproach (as we should), why not add another dimension, especially someone young and hungry.

falconsrus

November 28th, 2012
12:06 pm

The Chiefs “own” the scents I mean Aints

DMZ

November 28th, 2012
12:07 pm

My bad on Brees, how can Payton be his daddy when his real daddy is Willie Wonka

78dawg

November 28th, 2012
12:08 pm

Turner is a wasted play on every touch. He is killing us. Cut him loose now….

Kashi

November 28th, 2012
12:11 pm

Thank you PMC

warfalcon

November 28th, 2012
12:37 pm

10 AND 1 YES,ONE GAME AT A TIME,LETS GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Young Turk

November 28th, 2012
12:41 pm

D-LED – Thank you!! For Turning me on to DIRTYBIRD ROCK BLOG

IT ROCKS

GO BIRDS!