Ranking the Running Game, Part 12: Atlanta Falcons

Jeff LittleSenior Writer IMarch 26, 2008

Part 12 of a 32 part series, a running back position analysis of each franchise. The Atlanta Falcons had a disastrous and forgettable 2007. Team Owner Arthur Blank hired Bobby Petrino as head coach to take over for the fired Jim Mora. QB Michael Vick, the face of the franchise, got himself caught up in the most ridiculous scenario and basically throwing his career away. Making the situation worse, he lied to both team owner Arthur Blank and NFL commissioner Roger Goddell about his involvement in the bizarre activity.

The results were as expected—very disappointing and a terrible setback before the season started for the Falcons. This is what started the downward spiral of the ATL in 2007, but unfortunately it wasn’t the last thing the team had to deal with in the lost season. Following a negative with a positive, the Falcons are on the rebound from the lost season & now face the challenge of re-building.

A new regime has taken over for the departed coach Bobby Petrino who quit after 13 games at the helm, also team president Rich McKay was stripped of is football-related duties by Arthur Blank. The new regime has cleaned house and got rid of all malcontents and other voices in the locker room beside the coaches. The team is distancing themselves from anything or anyone that reminds them of the lost season.

This roster is going through an overhaul. A huge pick up for the team was GM Thomas Dimitroff. Owner Arthur Blank wanted Bill Parcells to lead the return to respectability for the team—but the Tuna used the Falcons as leverage and got what he felt was a better situation as team president in Miami. The Falcons then had their man in the front office.

The 41-year old Dimitroff has gone from a five-year stint as the New England Patriots Director College Scouting to Falcons GM. He has a reputation for being a shrewd evaluator of talent, something the Falcons desperately need considering how poorly they have drafted in recent years. He has the energy to deal with the total mess which is what the lost season became.

New coach Mike Smith, the former Jaguar defensive coordinator, will acquire two big DTs and install a 4-3 defense. The Falcons fell from the NFL’s top rushing team from 2004-2006 to No. 26 last season, averaging 95 yards per game.

Warrick Dunn        5’ 9” 180 lbs.     227 Att.   720 Yards 3.2 YPC Avg. 4 TD’s

Jerious Norwood    6’ 0” 203 lbs.     103 Att.   613 Yards 6.0 YPC Avg. 1 TD

Jason Snelling       5’ 11” 232 lbs.   13Att.       43 Yards 3.3 YPC Avg.  1 TD

Artose Pinner        5’ 10 “ 232 lbs.    5Att.        46 Yards 9.2 YPC Avg.  



Inconsistent play along the line and disjointed play-calling led to the woes, but Dunn also began to show some wear and tear. An 11-year veteran, Dunn entered the season coming off lower back surgery and it took him several games to get into shape. The offense was basically rudderless by that time.


The most dangerous runner on the team was Jerious Norwood who was under-utilized. Warrick Dunn is no longer on the team and has signed with the Buccaneers. In free agency, the Falcons signed Michael Turner to a large contract to be the starting running back.


Turner has spent three years in San Diego as LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup.  Turner had 71 Attempts for 316 yards with a 4.5 yards per carry average and scored one TD during the regular season. During the post-season he had 43 attempts for 164 yards with a 3.8 yards per carry average. Jerious Norwood will be his backup; Jamal Robertson & Jason Snelling will provide depth at the position.


The Falcons will select a running back in this draft and have a shot at Darren McFadden with the third pick. The best choice for the Falcons is a QB of the future Matt Ryan but all indications are that DT Glen Dorsey will be a Falcon. If not a QB in round one, the Falcons have two second-round draft picks—one from trading CB DeAngelo Hall to the Oakland Raiders and the other form trading Matt Schaab to Houston—to select Chad Henne, Joe Flacco, John David Booty or Erick Ainge. The number-one priority for the Falcons has to be re-building the offensive and defensive lines.

The question for the Falcons: Which side of the ball gets the most attention on draft day?