Falcons’ question No. 1: Should Michael Turner be kept? (UPDATED)

Falcons may need to sacrifice Michael Turner to fill other needs. (AP photo)

The Falcons may need to sacrifice running back Michael Turner to fill other needs. (AP photo)

(UPDATED)

(This is the first in a series of blogs in which I’ll  focus on some high-profile Falcons’ veterans and their respective uncertain future with the team.)

The Falcons need some fixes. They’re not a wreck. (Wrecks don’t make the playoffs in three out of four seasons.) But they have problems — offensive line, secondary and defensive line, for starters. They may need to fill holes during free agency, and that means they’ll need to create salary space. Some players will have to go.

Which brings me to Michael Turner.

This should not be taken as the start of a “Dump Michael Turner” movement. The guy finished third in the NFL in rushing with 1,340 yards. But the question of whether to keep him, cut him or trade him (if possible) for a mid-round draft pick is a legitimate one.

Because the Falcons don’t have first- or fourth-round picks this year (see: Julio Jones trade), they will have to plug more holes in free agency. That will mean salary-cap space. Turner is scheduled to make $5 million in salary next season, but has a cap hit of $7.5 million (factoring $2.5 million for his original signing bonus). He turns 30 years old next month. He has 1,189 carries in the past four seasons, which would wear down even a younger guy. (Technically, Turner is an eight-year back, but he had only 228 carries in his first four seasons in San Diego.)

At the very least, Turner is headed for a reduced role next season, as the Falcons want to give more touches to Jacquizz Rodgers, particularly in the screen game. Not integrating Rodgers into the offense was one of former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey’s failings.

Understand something: The NFL has changed a lot over the past five years. It’s a pass-driven league now, and marquee running backs are not in great demand. Several teams, including New Orleans and Green Bay, now have gone the running back-by-committee route. If the Falcons made the decision to part with Turner, that committee would include Rodgers, Jason Snelling (a free agent) and Antone Smith, unless another back is drafted or signed in free agency.

Despite his production this season, Turner showed signs of wear. He had rushed for over 100 yards once in a span of eight games until gaining 172 in the regular season-ending blowout against Tampa Bay, a team that had clearly quit. The accompanying chart illustrates how his monthly average yards per carry dropped from 5.57 in September to 3.38 in December. His average yards per game (78.8) also was the lowest of his four seasons in Atlanta.

Does this mean Turner is toast? No. He can still be productive. He ran behind a weak line. He played with a lingering groin strain. But the Falcons’ line isn’t going to suddenly morph into the Hogs up front, and injuries are common with older running backs. The move from Mularkey to new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was made with an expansion of the passing attack in mind.

So should Turner be sacrificed? There’s no absolute right or wrong answer. But if the Falcons truly want to fix their holes on the offensive and defensive lines — and this game is still about blocking and tackling — cutting or dealing Turner may be necessary.

The thought of saying goodbye to a 1,340-yard rusher may seem like a strange one, but it’s a new league — and the Falcons need the money.

Below is a chart showing Turner’s yards per carry and average yards per game by month in each of his four seasons. Remember too that the final game this season brought up his final 2011 averages.


YEAR          SEPT. OCT.  NOV.   DEC.  JAN.  TYPC  TYPG
2008 (YPC)  5.48  3.43  4.04  5.22   --   4.5    106.2
       (YPG)  105.5 77.7  110.6 122.8  --
2009 (YPC)  3.48  3.34  7.81   7.0*  --   4.9    79.2
       (YPG)  75.3  59.0  115.3  7.0   --
2010 (YPC)  3.98  4.88  4.21  3.51  3.94  4.1    85.7
       (YPG)  77.0  89.0  96.8  82.5  67.0
2011 (YPC)  5.57  4.03  4.04  3.38  10.12 4.5    78.8
       (YPG)  78.0  96.8  81.8  55.0  17
(*Turner played only 11 games in 2009 because of injuries, including 1 carry in December.)

And now, the floor is yours.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

697 comments Add your comment

yo Vince

January 19th, 2012
6:47 pm

CHOKE, for real, she’s starting to stink

Joshua

January 19th, 2012
6:47 pm

To even ask “Should Michael Turner be kept” is insane. We didn’t use him much in a game, we lost. we leaned on him, we won… THAT is the only stat that matters.

Steve

January 19th, 2012
6:47 pm

Should the Falcons keep Turner? no, No, NO, NO, NO!

The man can’t grind out the tough yards. He tiptoes to the line like a Wide Receiver, always looking not to get hit. He almost never puts his head down and just steamrolls people like his body style suggests he should.

In short, he wants to run like Barry Sanders, in an Earl Campbell body. he doesn’t even run to his own strengths.

Let put it this way .. with the game on the line and 3rd and short I would much rather see Snelling or Rodgers out there. That tells you how utterly useless Turner has become.

Don’t be fooled by the yardage. He is useless at the goal line and useless on short yardage. He makes a big run eveyr now and then, but even those should go for more yards as he has lost not just one step, but about three.

Brandon Jacobs is a laughing stock in New York for 80% of the season, but look who showed up in the big games. Jacobs, not Turner. Spend the money elsewhere.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 19th, 2012
6:54 pm

Spags to Saints

HA HA HA :)

Rwanda

January 19th, 2012
6:54 pm

Its time to take advantage of the speed with quiz if the falcons dont upgrade the o line. Drop those slow developing plays, and work fast

Steve

January 19th, 2012
6:55 pm

Oh and I should add to those thinking we would be better off giving Snelling some of the carries to ’save’ Turner for the stretch run. I would whole-heartedly agree .. except that you do NOT pay a time-share RB the money Turner is slated to make.

In fact, I would rather see us bring in another young 4-5-6 rounder and see what happens. Look at what the Patriots, Saints, Giants, and Green Bay have done with a RB by committee with lesser known backs. Realistically, only the 49ers and Ravens use a ‘primary’ back and both of those guys (Gore and Rice) are much younger and still run with authority.

Turner, I really loved you in year one, but you just aren’t running ‘mean’ like you should. In fact, you look tentative .. which ain’t good for a running back in today’s NFL.

Oh yeah .. Turner won’t be missed in the blocking game either. It’s sad when a rookie is a better pass protector than a veteran.

GT GRAD

January 19th, 2012
7:02 pm

I say trade hime if we can trade him for a 3rd rounder or better. If not, ask him to take a pay cut to stay on the team………let him know we need to spend free agent money on OL players (2-3 OL players are needed). If he decides he is not interested, we might actually need to cut him.

Either way, I expect we will draft a RB in the late rounds and Snelling/Rodgers will be the key RB if Turner decides to play hard ball.

J-Lo

January 19th, 2012
7:05 pm

The pivotal reason for letting him go is that he has NEVER performed well in the playoffs. He is like Lebron, once its playoff time, he doesn’t even look like the same player, totally impotent, like he’s trying to play through the flu or something.

Griffin's Finest

January 19th, 2012
7:08 pm

I think its time to let Turner walk in a trade that way we can get something for him before he is a free agent. Given that Saints just aquired Steve Spagunola as their defensive coordinator we need to go get some peices to complete our team.

nathan

January 19th, 2012
7:10 pm

i think they need a quarterback that can throw further than 40 yards

Columbus

January 19th, 2012
7:15 pm

Better keep Turner if you do not have a replacement who will get hte job done. Personally I think this is a stupid topic. If you cant run, you cant win and Turner has been a rock on offense since he got here. It would be dumb. This is a dumb topic. Next.

reality check

January 19th, 2012
7:18 pm

no. good guy, dependable, but has zero breakaway speed.

yo Vince

January 19th, 2012
7:19 pm

CHOKE Please, she’s asking for cab fare

Nut Job

January 19th, 2012
7:25 pm

Turner in our 7 losses…(yards obv) 100, 20, 56, 96, 44, 39, and 41. That’s 56 yards a game in our losses.

In our 10 wins…114, 70, 139, 122, 71, 100, 60, 76, 61, 172. That’s 98.5 yards a game in our wins. Not that any other RBs numbers are going to be any different in wins and losses but still….that’s a huge difference.

Just like the article stated with the stat analysis…his performance and the performance of our O-Line during December with the exception of the awful TB team was terrible.

55 yards a game isn’t getting it done. That’s pathetic. Whatever the problem is, it has to be fixed. Not saying its all Turner, but something has to change.

JSS

January 19th, 2012
7:26 pm

“In short, he wants to run like Barry Sanders, in an Earl Campbell body. he doesn’t even run to his own strengths.”

You just described Billy Sims…

Nut Job

January 19th, 2012
7:29 pm

On top of that…Ryan threw for 300 yards in 6 games. We were 2-4 in those games. What does that tell you about the team’s success when we throw the ball more? Save the dumb answers b/c I know we throw more when we are behind…but I think we panic too quickly and throw the running game out too early.

JSS

January 19th, 2012
7:30 pm

Wow, Sims really was tippy-toeing around waiting for a hole… He must have been a bust (sarcasm)!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7xsf5_nePE

Scott Anderson

January 19th, 2012
7:38 pm

please trade the Burner Turner as soon as possible.

I doubt the Falcons get much for him. Maybe a fifth round pick.

Dude goes down like a brick when touched anymore. Weight packing on cheeseburgers .

Of course he was third in the league. Against the really crappola teams any back can pad their yards if they are half decent. Turner lost the two steps.

And while they are at it trade Gonzalez in a package deal. Two for one. That might move them to a fourth round rookie with a 50/50 chance to make the team.

Falcons too old and no back ups. Roddy White is 32 now ? Damn where did his career get off to.

Abraham and Edwards. Package them up. Falcons get a 8 th round pick.

Decoud and Grimes . Falcons get a 10 th rounder for the two.

Falcons are doomed going forward.

Gamer

January 19th, 2012
7:45 pm

A SLIMMER AND MUSCULAR TURNER IS WORTH KEEPING..BUT THE PRESENT TURNER IS DEBATABLE FOR TRADE BAIT..

WHAT DO TURNER WANT?

IF HE WANT TO STAY THEN HE SHOULD GET SERIOUS ABOUT HIS WEIGHT AND TRAINING…IF HE LIKE THE WAY HE IS THEN LET HIM GO..

PERSONALLY, I THINK A THICK MUSCULAR TURNER CAN EXCEL IN EVERY FACET OF THE RUN GAME BUT IN HIS PRESENT CONDITION, HE’S NOT GETTING IT DONE WHEN IT REALLY MATTER.

IT IS A TOUGH DECISION TO CUT TIES WITH TURNER BECAUSE RYAN’S ARM IS AVERAGE AT BEST. RYAN’S ARM CAN’T CARRY FALCONS TO SUPERBOWL.

IT WOULD BE GREAT TO SEE RYAN WITH A STRONGER BODY TO PUT HEATED ZIP ON HIS 15 PLUS YARDS PASS PLAYS.

ANYONE REMEMBER MICHAEL JORDAN IN HIS EARLY YEARS AS A PRO TRYING TO GET PASS THE PISTONS AND CELTICS.

HE COULDN’T DO IT UNTIL HE GOT MUSCULAR, ADDING SOME BULK FOR PHYSICALITY.

RYAN NEED TO DO THE SAME THING. WE ALL KNOW HOW CEREBRAL RYAN IS AT QB BUT HE IS TOO WEAK TOO HIT HIS SPEEDY RECEIVERS IN STRIDE WITHIN DB’S TRAFFIC..

RYAN AND TURNER NEED TO GET MUSCULAR TO DO THEIR JOB ADEQUATELY.

Gamer

January 19th, 2012
7:52 pm

PLEASE PARDON MY TYPOS…(TOO) TO HIT HIS RECEIVERS IN STRIDE WITHIN DB’S TRAFFIC..

TURNER SHOULD TRAIN FOR SPEED AS WELL AS MUSCULARITY BODY, CHISELED NOT FAT..

steven a

January 19th, 2012
7:53 pm

Only Free Agent running back Falcons could probably afford will be Ben Jarvus-Green-Ellis..The law firm. Would be a great addition on the cheap!!!

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 19th, 2012
7:54 pm

The Monger

January 19th, 2012
8:15 pm

I think what people are not considering is the impact of losing Mughelli, and what it did to turner. Turner was averaging 5.5 ypc in September with Mughelli blocking for him, then down to 3.3 in December without Ovie. Enough said. Ovie can eat up and manhandle 2 defenders on a play, think about linebackers and safeties having to hit and rush past Mughelli to ultimately get hit hard again by Turner to make the tackle. Thats 500 pounds of solid, vicious musclemen pounding you, that takes a toll, and alot of Turner’s yardage was in the 4th quarter his first several years and even last year. We got away from the wear down a defense with Turner mode this year. I do feel we need more beef up front, a Carl Nicks or Jahari Evans type mauler at G and a premiere LT.

JSS

January 19th, 2012
8:16 pm

Scott, you cannot trade unrestricted free agents… Abraham and Grimes are UFAs… And the draft only has 7 rounds… And my unicorn poops rainbows!

J-Man

January 19th, 2012
8:29 pm

If we can get Carl Nicks and get Ovie healthy and back we should have our inside run game solved. We still need a Left Tackle, Sam Baker can’t stay healthy and underperforms. Now if we do cut Turner we will need to get another RB asap.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 19th, 2012
8:43 pm

When Turner carries the ball 20 times or more the Falcants are 28-2.

Go ahead and cut him and watch the CHOKE returns the team to the 2007 record.

Dude is a BUST and can’t blow his nose without Turner :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 19th, 2012
8:44 pm

@Jeff

How is that post Mora post season success working :)

You and Bradley are not very good at forecasting………………..

HA HA HA :)

Da Analyst

January 19th, 2012
8:45 pm

Trade Turner and sign Tashard Choice. Choice ,Snelling and Rogers can run and catch screen passes. Draft Boykin with 2nd Pick, a backup QB from OKC State and 3 offensive linemen.

Raleigh Jacket

January 19th, 2012
8:46 pm

One year early is always better than one year late.

Your worst nightmare just came true - SPAGNOLA!!!

January 19th, 2012
8:49 pm

LMAO…Failcants get Oh-Nolan and we got Spag’nola’…will be great to watch my Saints win Lombardi #2 in the Dome next year……

Ichabod

January 19th, 2012
8:51 pm

While I think Turner can do his thing for another year, I cringed when I kept seeing his one and two yd rushes that were drive-killers. I think Smitty has said his RBs were “set”, and that he has his plate full trying to straighten out the offensive line and secondary. I wonder if Quizz can be developed into a MJ Drew? That would help. I also wonder if Snelling will be prone to more concussions. If so, we need a good third RB in case that happens, should it be Turner or some younger stud who is big and quick and can catch? My bet is that coach Smith will spend Arthur’s money on the OL and secondary and hang on to Turner for one more year.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 19th, 2012
8:59 pm

I like to say that Matt Ryan will not win anything and is stupid and I hate him. Michael Vick is my favorite because he is black and does weed and gives women the Herps. I enjoyed fighting my pit-bulls against him we had so much fun electrocuting our dogs after the fights. Also I love farts, I love to smell fart, I really love it when I go to the Truck stop and after I get done giving him a rusty trombone when the trucker just lets 1 ripp in my mouth, OH MY I DO DECLARE IM GETTIN THE VAPORS!!!!!!!!!

Loserville USA

January 19th, 2012
8:59 pm

Well if the coordinators are going to be “cold-hearted” like Blank wants then we’ll see what kind of shape Turner comes to OTAs in.

In the meantime we need a workhorse RB and Snelling runs harder. I would be in favor of cutting Turner IF it meant upgrading the PATHETIC offensive line.

SeenthisB4

January 19th, 2012
9:01 pm

I like it when Matt “Choke” Ryan finishes up his rusty trombone on me.

For Crying Out Loud

January 19th, 2012
9:01 pm

Keep Turner and for crying out loud…get an offensive line!

J-Man

January 19th, 2012
9:02 pm

Yo Vince

January 19th, 2012
9:09 pm

Man the Saints get Spags, and we get Nolan. Matty is really going to get creamed now.
I was a blind follower of Matt but if he played so terrible the last time we faced the Saints
we have no hope now.

I’m sorry but it’s becoming more obvious that Flacco was the better pick.

Yo Vince

January 19th, 2012
9:11 pm

What happened to the days when a man could park his trailer in any trailer park in America?
Back to football, why do the Saints get the high profile coaches and we get the scraps?
Now we will finish behind Carolina, because there is no way Matt and his weak arm
can compete with Cam.

Mr. SaintsFan Jr.

January 19th, 2012
9:17 pm

Calm down Falcon fans…………you have great back in Turner, the problem you guys need to solve is how to get out of the first round of the playoffs? The present QB,RB,WR’S , defense were good enough to get you there the last 3 years. You might want to take a hard look at your coaching staff.Our defense lost the game for us on Saturday because of a dc who wants to blitz all the time and leave players on an island all the time alone to defend very good recievers.So we welcome Spags, but he’s not the second coming.

steven A.

January 19th, 2012
9:25 pm

We will be stronger without Michael ” the burner” Turner. SAINTS are going to Lose Colston AND Meachem in Free Agency. Weaker SAINTS. We have to worry about CAM.

steven A.

January 19th, 2012
9:25 pm

We will be stronger without Michael ” the burner” Turner. SAINTS are going to Lose Colston AND Meachem in Free Agency. Weaker SAINTS. We have to worry about CAM.

Mr. SaintsFan Jr.

January 19th, 2012
9:38 pm

@STEVEN A,, I can assure you we won’t lose Colston or Meachem.Our front office has a lot of big decisions to make, but we always seem to find those diamonds in the rough like Colston .We have a very good scouting staff, most of our recievers won’t be drafted and we have a couple on the practice squad we havent unpacked out of the box yet.

KevinO

January 19th, 2012
9:48 pm

Cut him. I’m tired of seeing 8 out of 10 of his runs end at, or behind the line of scrimmage.

BIG TIME

January 19th, 2012
9:58 pm

KEEP HIM!!!!! KEEP HIM!!!! ROTATE HIM, JAQUEZ, AND SNELLING AND THE RUNNING GAME WOULD BE SICK!!!

jay

January 19th, 2012
10:01 pm

Yes we need to get back that first round pick for Julio .Snelling can produce if given the chance. Oh by the way dump Edwards and go after DE Robert Mathis from Indy.

FALCONS 1 AND DONE!

January 19th, 2012
10:18 pm

KEEP MIKE! HE IS A COOL DUDE!

GET RID OF SOME OF THAT OTHER GARBAGE LIKE RODDY “THE DROP BALL” WHITE!

Domeinate

January 19th, 2012
10:19 pm

Keep him. Spags has a package for him

FALCONS 1 AND DONE!

January 19th, 2012
10:28 pm

FOR ANY ONE WHO THINKS CARL NICKS WILL GO TO THE FALCONS IS STUCK ON STUPID!

HE KNOWS WHAT KIND OF ORGANIZATION YOU HAVE. YOU ARE CONSIDERED DISORGANIZED AND A JOKE!

FORGET ABOUT IT!

I'll say it

January 19th, 2012
10:32 pm

Trade Ryan. Name Redman (mobile QB + arm strength) starter. Get two OL and DB (6ft tall) from Ryan trade. Let Snelling challenge for the starting position to see if Turner gets his fire back. Cut or trade Chris Houston & pick up 2 DB from a D2 program that are hungry.

78Dawg

January 19th, 2012
10:35 pm

Turner is not what he was. Given he didn’t have a consistent O-line, but he side steps way too much and when he does he’s toast. He doesn’t give any push himself. I say get Ovie back, run Snelling and Rodgers. We should trade Turner while he might be worth a 3rd rounder.