Stick a Fork in Him, Michael Turner's Elite Playing Days Are Over
His time as an elite player in the NFL has come and gone.
Turner busted off 102 yards and a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. It was a pleasant reminder of days long past, when Turner was churning out yards with the best of them and pumping out double-digit touchdown totals on a yearly basis.
Wait a tick, that describes the past four years.
From 2008 to 2011, Turner averaged 1,320 yards and 12.5 touchdowns per season, and he missed seven games in 2009. During this four-year period of dominance, Turner rushed for 100 or more yards 25 times—an average of more than six times per season.
Turner's big game against the Cowboys was only his second game of more than 100 yards in 2012, and his three touchdowns put him on pace to have his worst season since joining the Falcons.
So why has Turner's production fallen off a cliff in 2012?
Mainly, it can all be traced to a drop-off in two areas: agility and burst.
If I had to compare Turner to another NFL running back, I'd say he and Steven Jackson are about on the same level. Both are still capable of hitting an open hole and making a few yards after contact, but neither has the same quickness and burst that made them so special in their prime.
When defenders get penetration and Turner is forced to change direction, his feet just don't move as quickly as they once did, and he looks like he's stuck in cement for a second before he recovers.
The Falcons are 8-0 after Week 9, and Turner is a big part of the team's success. He is still a workhorse who takes excellent care of the football, and as long as he can continue to grind away with moderate success, he'll do enough to keep opposing pass-rushers from pinning their ears back and attacking the team's porous offensive line.
That said, Turner's best days are clearly behind him and we won't see too many 100-yard games in his future.
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