Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Steven Jackson is a better receiver than Michael Turner.
The Atlanta Falcons are hoping to have a ground game to complement their air attack in 2013, so they brought in running back Steven Jackson to replace free agent Michael Turner.
Jackson will be celebration his 30th birthday on Monday and has reached 1,000 yards rushing in each of the past eight seasons. Turner was productive in his five seasons in Atlanta, but his production seriously declined last year, which tends to be the case when players reach the age of 30.
Considering how many miles Jackson has put on his tires the last eight years and his age, you have to wonder if he’s going to see a sharp decline in his production as well. There’s certainly a case to be made that he was signed just to replace Turner and not to improve at the position.
To put it in perspective, Turner averaged 89.5 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry from age 26 to age 29, and Jackson averaged 78.1 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry in the same time period. Turner carried the ball 18 more times than Jackson from 26 to 29, which is not enough to indicate his decline would be sharper.
Of course, running backs do decline at different rates and Jackson has always been a much better receiver out of the backfield than Turner. Jackson has averaged 21.9 yards per game receiving over the past four seasons, significantly more than any four-year period in Turner’s career.
The pep left in Jackson’s step is something that should be clear during training camp. We should also see him being utilized in the passing game. If either of these are not the case, it might be worth wondering how much he has left and if he’ll provide any more than the Turner-Jacquizz Rodgers combination from last season.