In 2010, we all know how heavily the Falcons offense relied on running back Michael Turner. But to many, Turner seemed to be a step slower. Gone was the old Turner who broke off big runs in just about every game. In his place we found a Turner who, although still very productive, was not the explosive back from 2008.
In fact, Turner noticeably faded down the stretch last year. His 4.5 yard-per-carry average in the first half of 2010 decreased to 3.8 over the last eight games. However, the coaching staff actually increased Turner's workload over the second half, giving him 179 carries over that span. These numbers raise an excellent question: should the Falcons really be concerned with Turner?
Many of the other names on the list ring a few bells, I'm sure, but probably none more so than former Falcons star Jamal Anderson. After a stellar 1998 season in which Jam totaled a whopping 410 carries, he went on to tear his ACL and miss almost the entire 1999 season. His overall workload in 1998 had increased by 41% from the previous season.
And so now we consider Turner's workload. In 2008, his carries increased by 430% from a 2007 in which he only ran the ball 70 times. Following that, fans saw Turner's name on the injury report for a sizable chunk of the 2009 season. In 2010, he again carried the ball over 300 times. Let's hope the Falcons share the wealth at running back and do not make the same mistake twice.
That said, don't automatically think this is a disaster waiting to happen. With the Falcons' selection of Jacquizz Rodgers in this year's draft, the front office clearly shares some of the same concerns I do. If Rodgers can share at least some of the workload at running back, expect Turner to be much more effective in 2011.
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