DeMarco Murray. Matt Forte. Marshawn Lynch. Le’Veon Bell. What do all of these players have in common? Aside from the fact that they’re dominant, league-leading running backs? They’re the only dominant running backs on their respective teams. The Atlanta Falcons have struggled the past couple of seasons to find their every down back and as such, have been forced to go with a run by committee strategy. Steven Jackson can no longer put the weight of a squad on his back and the other two (healthy) RBs are just too inexperienced to make up for it. With Smith now on the IR, our birds find themselves up shit’s creek and the paddle is quite small.
SJax is now in his 11th year with the league, arguably (not really) past his prime and simply cannot rush for ~1200 yards anymore. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll get his short yardage conversions, but when was the last time you saw him tear open a homer? Sure, there are our o-line problems that can be blamed, but the man has been too good in the past to try and point fingers. He’s got talent and it’s not showing. The offensive line is building and dying within the same breath and if and when that train finds its tracks, it very well may be too late for Jackson to take advantage. At least we have him around to mentor the boys with 6+ years to play.
Speaking of boys, Devonta Freeman and his super nice carpet seem to be foaming at the chance to get some yardage. Hard Knocks hyped him up to be our next best thing, but we haven’t seen any of that, yet. Skipping his senior year to enter the draft, he still has some work to do, but with the Falcons shitty division-leading record, should this kid really be getting a mere 2-3 touches per game? I don’t care what you’re paying SJax, if he’s not producing, give the ball to someone who’s thirsty. He needs to take every bit of mentorship from Jackson before the old guy retires and run with it. Blame some of that on the front office, blame some of it on lackluster practice performance or failure to break some runs when it counts, but just give him the ball. The last option available to us comes up just a bit short as well.
No pun intended, the 5’6” Jacquizz Rodgers has flashed bits of brilliance with his time in Atlanta. He’s got crazy good b-line speed but just can’t seem to find his path to that opening. Maybe he genuinely can’t see past his guard or maybe the shorter legs can’t cut like the freakishly tall Calvin Johnson, who knows. One thing is for certain, when we thrust him into the spotlight in years past, he’s done his job. It hasn’t always been pretty, but he’s there and at least trying to get the ball towards the other end of the field, which is more than can be said for Steven (he looks asleep past halftime). Before the arrival of Hester the Return Molester, Jacquizz was returning the pig skin and doing a decent job at it. But in all seriousness, with Devin in town, he’s sadly lost most relevance and lets face it, will never be a viable RB1 while having to compete with other young backs.
The chemistry between Matty Ice’s arm and Antone Smith’s ability are done for the season unfortunately, so we’re stuck with a tired beast, an inexperienced enigma, and a little drag racer. Our best bet at this point is to keep prepping Freeman with the hopes that he starts to shine in the future. If we can do that and get our front office to stop signing players past their prime, we might be all right, but we know what happens when things look good on paper for the Falcons. In a perfect, injury-free world, our birds would still be leading our division, albeit with a record on the good side of .500 and a sold out stadium watching Ryan put Drew Brees totals to shame. At least we have Julio.