Atlanta Falcons: Why They Should Look to the Saints for Tailback Advice in 2011

Aaron YoungCorrespondent IIIMarch 16, 2011

Jason Snelling running hard during his breakout season
Jason Snelling running hard during his breakout season

With so much talk about the importance of the quarterback position in today’s NFL, the running back or running back committee often does not get the recognition as it used to. This is because the running game has become more of a supplementary part of the offense for many organizations.

However, one can argue that in most cases, it is necessary to have an adequate running game to succeed, too. Just one team made the playoffs while recording single-digit rushing touchdowns. At the same time, none of the teams that fumbled the ball more often than they scored a rushing touchdown qualified for the playoffs.

This shows you the importance the running game still has in tsomhe NFL today. Therefore, here’s a breakdown of the running back situation of the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons ran the ball well last season. On nearly 500 carries, 497 to be exact, they averaged 3.8 yards per carry, totaling 1,891 rushing yards and had a 14/4 rushing TD/fumble differential. This helped the team to run a very balanced offense where every piece needed to be accounted for.

Michael Turner continues to impress for the Atlanta Falcons. Carrying most of the workload for his position, he averaged 4.1 yards per carry. That is not a staggering number, but considering he ran the ball 334 times for 1,371 yards, he still had a great season.

Turner is 29 years old and will soon be on the wrong side of 30, which statistically is a bad thing for running backs. He is set to make $5 million guaranteed this season, and the Falcons are likely to keep him since he had such a productive season.

Turner’s counterpart, Jason Snelling, just had his breakout season. As the Falcons’ third down back, he recorded five all-purpose touchdowns—two rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns, while fumbling twice, but losing none of them.

As opposed to Michael Turner, he is a force in the passing game, receiving 44 passes last season. His ability to catch the football is what allows him to supplement the Falcons running game in such a good manner. He is set to be a free agent this season, but Atlanta has assigned him a second-round tender and will clearly look to keep him.

If the Atlanta Falcons can keep both Turner and Snelling, the running game situation looks bright. Eventually, the Falcons will be forced to find a replacement for Michael Turner. Look for them to pick up a running back in the draft. History tells us that you don’t have to be an early-round draft pick to be a good running back—just ask Chris Ivory.

Comments welcome.