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Evaluating the Falcons: Running Backs

January 25th, 2007

Okay, now I’m moving onto the running backs. McKay has already gone on record and said that the Falcons will bring Warrick Dunn back. They said this a few years ago, and followed up on their word, so there’s little reason to doubt McKay this time around.

But I will say this, I think that if the Falcons were to snag a top runner in the first two rounds of the draft, such as an Adrian Peterson or Michael Bush, you might see Warrick get the “Jamal Anderson treatment.” Meaning, that when the Falcons signed Dunn originally back in ’02, they planned on bringing back Jamal as well to complement him. Things changed when they drafted T.J. Duckett, and Jamal was thus released a few months later in June.

And on the subject of rookie running backs, that is what I’m most hopeful the Falcons will do in early in the draft. I like Norwood, but I’m not sure he can be a No. 1 running back in any non-Alex Gibbs-led blocking system. In his first year, he proved that he wasn’t very durable, and I have no reason to believe that with his chicken legs, he’ll be anymore if given the ball more in 2007. There was only 1 game all season long that Norwood had more than 10 carries. He deserves more playing time, but I don’t think he’s going to get it unless his pass blocking improves.

But I do like the duo of Dunn and Norwood coming back. Their speed and hands should make them effective weapons both out of the backfield, and also possibly lining up in the slot at wide receiver. Perhaps Bobby Petrino has heard of something that was completely foreign to Greg Knapp, and it’s called a screen pass.

But as I said, I really hope the Falcons get a top notch runner this coming April. I firmly believe that the best medicine for Michael Vick and the ho-hum Falcon offense is to have another player in the backfield that can be a consistent weapon, thus taking pressure off Vick to have to play at a high level every week, a feat I just don’t think will occur with him.

In my eyes, Adrian Peterson is perfect. But Marshawn Lynch, the consensus #2 running back, is not far behind. I’m sure people are seeing obvious links between Michael Bush and Atlanta, and Bush has already said in an interview that he would love to play for the Falcons, I’m just not sure the Falcons will be in a position to draft him.

Okay, moving on to the fullback position. I’m not sure what to do with Justin Griffith. I really like Griffith, because he’s a jack of all trades player, that blocks, runs, and catches the ball well. But if the Falcons retain both Dunn and Norwood, and draft a promising rookie, he’ll be buried on the depth chart. Not to mention that Petrino’s offense likes to spread the field out, so Griffith’s role as a lead blocker will be marginalized. And despite flashing potential as a runner, Griffith simply fumbles way too much to be a serious consideration to share the load with Dunn & Norwood next year. In 168 career touches, Griffith has fumbled four times. Comparatively, Dunn touched the ball 310 times and fumbled only once.

I’m not sure if Fred McCary will be back. I think the Falcons should try to have one blocking back on the roster for obvious short-yardage and goalline situation. McCrary fits the bill, but the team might be interested in developing someone like Corey McIntyre. I’m hopeful the Saints pass on re-signing Kevin Dudley for next year, because I’d like to see him get a real chance to compete.

Marlion Jackson was not re-signed, and I don’t think he’ll be missed.

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