Camp Battles 2011: Running Back
What shakes out at the running back position will heavily depend on what happens in free agency for the Falcons. Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood are both free agents. All signs indicate that the Falcons want to bring Snelling back, but there’s no guarantee that will happen and he could walk. The selection of Jacquizz Rodgers in the draft will likely push Norwood out the door, but the possibility of his return increases if Snelling signs elsewhere.
Unlike Matt Ryan at the quarterback position, the Falcons should not have to spend a ton of time and effort getting Michael Turner ready for the season. Although that could change if the Falcons aren’t keen on Turner’s conditioning when camp opens up. Hopefully, unlike past off-seasons, Turner put in the extra time to try and be in top conditioning in order to hit the ground running when football reconvenes.
If that is the case, then the Falcons can spend the extra reps trying to get Jacquizz Rodgers up to speed, particularly working in passing situations and on protections. If the Falcons lose both free agents, it will become paramount that Rodgers gets up to speed as quickly as possible since he will likely be the team’s top option on third downs since that was the primary role in which both Snelling and Norwood served the past three seasons.
Depending on how Rodgers does in that area will likely determine the chances that either Gartrell Johnson or Antone Smith remain Falcons in 2011. Both players’ experience makes them suitable alternatives if Rodgers, at least early in the season, isn’t up to the task. Johnson is the likelier of the pair to make the roster since he passed Smith on the depth chart during the course of 2010. His size and power make him a more suitable alternative in the event of injuries and the team needs an option to fill in on the ground. He was also slightly more productive of the pair on special teams as well.
At fullback, Pro Bowler Ovie Mughelli’s job is safe. The Falcons may toy with the idea of bringing another lead blocker to camp to add depth. The chances that happens increase if Snelling departs, since he’s the primary backup there. Although the Falcons might try and use their reserve tight ends as H-backs in such an event. Michael Palmer would have the best opportunity there.