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Michael Turner Among The Best Running Backs On Third Down

When it came to third and short last season, you could almost always predict what the Falcons were going to do: line up that bruising running back we all love right behind our big fullback Ovie Mughelli, and promptly send both rumbling through the middle of the opponent's front seven and towards the first-down marker.

Although there was the occasional run on a 3rd-and-7 situation, often followed by a string of curses at Mike Mularkey for not calling a pass play, Michael Turner was quite successful on third down in 2010.

But how exactly do we know this?  According to his Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) numbers, a more in-depth statistic that measures his value, per play, over the average starting NFL running back. In 2010, Turner posted a 27.4% DVOA on third down rushes, good for fifth in the NFL.

On 18 third-down carries, Turner made it past the marker an impressive 72% of the time, proving himself a reliable option when the offense needed him to move the chain, especially on the goal line. By comparison, 2010 leading rusher Arian Foster posted an only slightly better 28.0% DVOA, along with a 63% success rate. Clearly, Turner is among the best.

But despite his success, expect Turner to begin giving way to rookie Jacquizz Rodgers on third down in 2011. With his shiftiness, receiving skills (something Turner severely lacks), and big-play capability, Rodgers could be even more successful than Turner in third-and-middle or third-and-long situations.

Still, you gotta love having a guy that's gonna bust through that line and grind out the tough yards on third and short, and clearly Turner has been excellent at doing just that.

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Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.