Falcons Run Game In Need Of Extreme Makeover
Let me reiterate the same point that I mentioned in my previous article on Football.com: the Atlanta Falcons must re-establish a consistent running game if they want to finish the season on a good note and dominate the NFC South again in the near future. It is true that the NFL is a passing league now but as always, great teams can’t go far without reliable running backs.
The Falcons proved once again that their ground attack is the most anemic in the league, coming in dead last in rushing yards per game. In Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta only ran the ball 16 times for 64 yards. Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch alone ran for more than twice as much as the Falcons did.
I am very disappointed with the Falcons and the running game, especially after they signed a proven veteran rusher in Steven Jackson to continue the success the team has enjoyed in that area the past several seasons. The running attack, starting with Warrick Dunn, Michael Vick and Michael “the Burner” Turner, helped the Falcons compete in the NFC South since the mid 2000s. In fact, Turner was a big part of Atlanta's most recent playoff runs.
With that being said, this is apparently not the year of explosive running backs in Atlanta. Jackson either has been injured or has not cracked 100 yards yet when he does play. He was supposed to be the man to carry the load for the offense and take pressure off of QB Matt Ryan. Fellow RB Jacquizz Rodgers does show flashes of his game-breaking speed, but that does not translate into a full time role. I am also surprised at how little Falcons head coach Mike Smith has used Jason Snelling this year as he is a more proven backup than Rodgers.
Seeing as how their season is about a game or two away from ending without the hope of a playoff berth, the Falcons can go with two options. The team can continue to fight for a playoff spot, or at least finish the season strong, by asking Snelling to be the main ball carrier. He ran for a career-high 613 yards and scored four touchdowns in 2009. Rodgers should also get more carries, but only for runs between the sidelines and numbers. The other option is for Atlanta to cut its losses and look to land a franchise running back in the second or third day of next year’s NFL Draft, especially since teams will most likely be focusing moreso on linemen, receivers and quarterbacks during the first round. As a matter of fact, the Falcons can get valuable runners in the later rounds, such as Florida State's James Wilder Jr., Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas or Washington's Bishop Sankey.
At any rate, the running game has to improve for the Falcons to have any shot at a playoff spot this year and dominate the NFC South again in the future. 64.3 rushing yards per game simply does not cut it at all.