The Falcons have had an extra week of practice, and thus the capacity to add some new wrinkles to the offense this weekend. My hope is that the extra time allowed the Falcons to really come up with a winning gameplan against the Seattle Seahawks. And as previously noted, I think that should include more Jacquizz Rodgers and less Michael Turner.
The Falcons offensive line has struggled to create push this year. It has been one of the main reasons why Michael Turner has been a non-factor. The other main reason is that Michael Turner over time has diminished in ability. Father Time still remains undefeated. With all of the hits that Turner has taken over the years with the Falcons, he no longer has the burst, quickness, or lateral agility that he once did. Turner was never a guy that shined in those areas as the majority of his success from 2008-10 with the Falcons was because Turner was an elite after-contact runner. But over time, Turner is no longer that force of nature after contact. And his skills in those other areas has gone from average to poor. And basically that means he needs a lot more space to run, something the Falcons front five have had increasing difficulty creating since the loss of their top run blocker, Harvey Dahl, in 2011.
The strength of the Seahawks run defense is the middle, where they have a lot of beef in Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, and Alan Branch. It’s no secret that center Todd McClure is not a power blocker. Right guard Peter Konz while a capable run blocker, is neither consistent nor powerful enough to push a 320-pounder like those three off the ball. And that’s also never really been left guard Justin Blalock’s game, as he too is not consistently a “plus” run blocker. And while Mike Cox has done a solid job this year lead blocking, he’s not the guy that can clear a hole quite like Ovie Mughelli could in his heyday. If the Falcons intend to run a lot into the teeth of the Seahawks defense, they are playing to Seattle’s strength and their own weakness.
Instead, the Seahawks will be playing a 250-pound Bruce Irvin nearly every snap due to the injury to Chris Clemons. Greg Scruggs will be rotating in as well. Greg Who? Exactly. Right tackle Tyson Clabo, the Falcons best run blocker should be matched up quite a bit with Irvin, who normally plays left end. The smartest thing for the Falcons will be to attack Irvin wherever he lines up on the field when they want to run the ball.
And the simple truth is that if the Falcons do attack the edges on the ground, Michael Turner is not their best candidate. Both Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, while underused, possess a better skillset to get out on the edge than Turner. If the Falcons intend to run the ball, and trying to maintain some semblance of balance will be beneficial for the Falcons, it plays to their strength to feature a lot more Quizz and/or Snelling, and a lot less Turner. Rodgers, smaller stature, outstanding quickness and lateral agility means he doesn’t need as much space to work with as Turner. He can find creases, cutbacks, and do a better job finding daylight not only on the edge, but also up the middle if/when the Falcons do decide to try and pound it.
Not to mention the fact that the Falcons are a pass-first team, that will likely try to tire out the Seahawks front four with a lot of no-huddle. Rodgers has overwhelmingly been their featured guy in the no-huddle due to his solid pass protection skills, as well as his ability to make impact plays in the passing game. While Turner is a capable pass protector, he is really a weak link when it comes to catching the ball. A four-yard pass on a checkdown to Rodgers has a chance to go 20 yards. The chances Turner drops that checkdown are much higher than the chances he turns it into a big gain.
Turner still should be the go-to guy for the Falcons in short-yardage and near the goalline. But on the majority of snaps, whether it’s a run or pass, having Rodgers on the field gives the Falcons the best possible matchup against the Seahawks.
What I’m afraid will happen on Sunday is the Falcons being overly “loyal” to Turner. I thought the Falcons should have gotten rid of Turner this past off-season. I think they did not because of the hope that he still had something left in the tank, and it would have not looked great dumping a guy that had had the four-year run that Turner had in Atlanta outright. And I think at certain points this year, the Falcons have continued to put Turner as a big part of their weekly gameplans out of that same loyalty, when it’s been fairly clear since the middle of the year that the offense functions better when Rodgers is on the field. I just hope the Falcons don’t get into that same mindset where they are giving Turner unnecessary reps Sunday over some gooey feelings for the guy. The bottom line is the Falcons need to win on Sunday. I believe that Rodgers gives them the best chance to do that. And I hope that Dirk Koetter has devised a plan of attack that reflects that.