Now it’s time to look on offense at one of the Falcons key reserves: running back Jason Snelling.
Pros: Shows good speed and burst for a player of his size and frame. Can be a dangerous runner on the second level when he can square his shoulders and run behind his pads. Shows enough power to break tackles. Is a good north-south runner that does his best work running downhill. Effective on screens because of this when he has blockers out in front of him. Has good, reliable hands as a receiver out of the backfield. Is an effective lead blocker and does a capable job in pass protection. Shows good ball security, generally covering the ball with both arms to prevent being stripped. Patient, and does a good job following his blockers. His play improved as the season wore on and seems to get better with a heavier workload. Also solid on special teams in coverage.
Cons: Not as powerful as a player his size could be. Can get stone-walled when he takes on a linebacker head on. Not as effective in short-yardage because of it. Doesn’t have great long speed to take it the distance. Not overly shifty on the second level and tends to be a very straight-line runner. Doesn’t show great vision as a runner. Lack of vision means he’s really only as productive as his blocking allows. Still needs a bit more polish in pass protection, as he’ll miss on some assignments.
2010 Outlook: Originally considered a tweener at the position, Snelling has emerged as a reliable reserve option at halfback. Coupled with his ability to line up as a lead blocker, it makes Snelling a very versatile reserve running back. He showed significant improvement last year, as a late season fill-in for an injured Michael Turner. The Falcons hope he can continue to make progress as a runner, which would do a lot to spell Turner and keep him healthy.
Snelling hasn’t quite emerged as a runner that is a regular part of an NFL offense. Or better put, he isn’t good enough that he should be a featured weapon even as a complementary runner. Basically he isn’t a guy that most offenses would give more than 10 carries per game if they can help it. He was not consistent as a short-yardage and goalline runner last season. And he doesn’t have the explosive speed that he can be a nice change of pace runner to Turner’s power. And typically in this league if a reserve runner wants to be a regular part of an offense’s rushing attack, he needs to excel in one of those two areas.
But Snelling does a good job on third downs and passing situations. He was able to convert quite a bit in those situations both as a runner and receiver. And that is where his main value in Atlanta lies. He will spell Turner often in passing situations as well as when the starter is tired. Snelling will split reps with Jerious Norwood in that role. But it’s likely based off last season, and Snelling being the more durable of the pair that he will garner the majority of those opportunities.
Snelling still has value as a fullback down the road, although for at least the immediate future the Falcons seem more interested in developing his potential as a halfback. Depending on how good a summer Dan Klecko has will determine if Snelling is the first fullback off the bench behind Ovie Mughelli. His versatility means that the Falcons aren’t forced to keep a true reserve fullback on the roster.
In Summary… As far as his upside as a runner, I don’t think we’ll see Snelling being a regular ball-carrier in that he will eat into Turner’s reps. He probably doesn’t have the quickness or vision that the team is looking for in a potential long-term replacement for Turner. But he has shown that in the event of an injury, he is more than serviceable as a fill-in. But in all likelihood the team would prefer to keep Snelling as a reserve, and potentially develop someone else as the feature back. But if he continues to show progress as a runner this season, those plans could change.