Sometimes you never truly realize what you have until it's gone. For the Falcons, who have lost Ovie Mughelli for the season to an apparent knee injury against the Lions, that may turn out to be the case. Not only has Mughelli been a veteran presence and leader on offense, but he's also what I consider to be the premiere player at his position.
Fullback is an odd one. Some teams- take the Packers' John Kuhn, for instance- have used them only as situational runners and receivers. Others teams like the Patriots don't even carry a fullback. But for the Falcons, Mughelli did it all: he's logged a few carries, he's caught two touchdown passes on the year, he's been used as an occasional pass blocker, and without a doubt he is the best run-blocking fullback in the league.
For a team that runs the ball as much as the Falcons do, this one really hurts. The running game instantly becomes less effective, and we all remember what the offense turns into when Turner can't run the ball (remember the Buccaneers game?). So how should the Falcons carry on without their Pro-Bowl fullback?
We know the Falcons have signed former Yellow Jacket Mike Cox as a roster replacement. But as was the case in 2009, Jason Snelling now becomes the de facto starting fullback. Given the difference in skill sets between Snelling and Mughelli, Mike Mularkey now has to use the fullback in a completely different manner.
Snelling, a much better runner and receiver, has been a solid offensive weapon for the Falcons in recent years. He runs much like Turner, and Ryan absolutely loves finding him on those short dump-off passes. As much as I hate to say it, with Snelling in the picture the Falcons will need to turn to the pass more than over. The return of Julio Jones is now much more important, as well.
Am I saying the Falcons will abandon Turner, and the running game will become absolutely ineffective? No. But without the big man Mughelli leading the way, my concerns are that the offensive line's struggles become even more noticeable.
Most of all, if the Falcons want to minimize the loss of their starting fullback, they'll have to get creative on offense. That means using Jaquizz Rodgers more often. That means screen passes that actually work. That means getting Harry Douglas involved. Most of all, however, that means cutting down on the stupid mistakes and penalties that kept popping up all game against the Lions.
Mike Mularkey, the bye week is waiting and she wants you to blow our minds away.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.