In this series of posts, I seek to find the answer to questions that are brought up around here or around the various sports conversation sites. I use a realistic, low-stat opinion to generate discussion about these topics, but I also encourage the use of stats in an argument.
Today, I want to pose a question a bit different from the previous debate questions. I want to make this one more of an open question aside from a simple yes or no question. I think it will generate a wider range of opinions on the topic.
The topic I have for you all today is simple. What should we expect from the Falcons offense? Are we being too predictable? (Before you say, "OH GOD, YES", think about it.)We have seen an offensive explosion (ARI) and the likeness of a 90 year old grandma running the ship (PIT).
To expand this question, I want you all to think if we're using Michael Turner correctly. I encourage you to use stats, but you certainly don't have to use them. Let's see what we can figure out after the jump.
I had the fortunate experience of going to see the SF game, and I have to say that they are a team that should not be winless. People are probably arguing that we should not be 3-1. Well, I think the same kind of argument could be made for them not being 0-4 right now. The 49ers that I saw were a very tough team, especially their defense. They made life difficult for Matty Ice, including sneaking his snap count a few times.
One thing I noticed about the offense was personnel packages. This is where my debate ties in to Turner. We did a pretty good job of trying to get Turner some passes out of the backfield, including one that he literally stone-hands'd even though he was wide open.
However, I feel like our personnel is making us too predictable. When Snelling was in the game, the run game seemingly opened up. When Turner was in the game, we encountered Stonehenge in the form of a defense.
Orang3b threw some stats out earlier that showed that the Niners D wasn't very good, sans holding tight ends in check. I see where he's coming from, but stats don't always tell the story. Think about our Falcons, for instance.
After week 1, we thought the world was ending for sure in Falcon land, and then we laid total waste to the Cardinals. Stat folks probably would have lost their minds trying to figure out what in the world the Falcons offense was going to be like in Week 3.
The thing about stats is that they eventually tell most of the story. Right now, they're only telling how the infant stage of the season went, so there's not a whole lot to base our opinions on as of yet.
This ties into my opinion based on what I saw at the SF game. When Turner was in the game, we predictably ran the ball up the middle in some attempt to have Turner miraculously perform osmosis and pass through the defensive interior.
Blame who you want. Blame Mularkey for essentially calling vanilla plays based on personnel. Blame Turner for not being able to catch passes. Blame Turner for not running angry. Blame the Falcons for not picking up LT or a real multi-type back. Heck, blame me if you want.
It's easy to say Snelling is playing better at this point because Snelling is the one producing results right now. When Turner is in the game, teams key on him because it seems he's either going to run or pass protect. (I wish I knew where to find these stats. Orang3b probably knows, that being how many times a play goes to a certain player based on how many plays they're in the game.)
When Snelling is in the game, someone HAS to account for him at all times. He can run, he can block, and he can seemingly catch like a receiver. Opening up that extra option is what seperates good running backs from great running backs. Turner is a good running back, but all he can do is run. He has limited pass catching ability, which is hindering the growth of the offense.
Turner has also looked slower this year. I watched highlights of his 1,700 yard season, and he ran with purpose in many of his big runs. This year, he just looks....slower. I think we all tend to forget that he's rapidly approaching 30 years old. He may not have had the amount of carries because he was a backup in SD, but from what I've seen, bigger backs can suddenly just go ie. Brandon Jacobs.
That being said, I do think Turner can still play. I think we're just using him incorrectly. We just pound him up the middle time and time again because, as we saw in the Saints game, Thunder and Thunder work if the game is close. When we fall behind like in the SF game, sending Turner in is essentially saying, "We're going to be stubborn and continue to run the ball with this guy up the middle" and you're essentially taking your check down option out of the game because Turner just doesn't do that.
As I mentioned before, the Falcons attempted to do something about this by getting Turner some passes out of the backfield. He had 3 receptions on 4 targets for 28 yards. That's what we need, but I still felt like Turner's presence was choreographing run a bit too much.
Turner had 16 carries for 50 yards, but one of those runs was 27 yards. Everyone say it with me. Blech! 15 carries for 23 yards? That's horrid!
I think it's safe to say Turner can still run, so you have to ask yourself who to blame for the faltering running game. Is it Turner's lack of aggression? Is it Failarkey? Is it Matt Ryan? Yes, it must be Matt Ryan. Matt Ryan is so good at throwing the ball, he bribes Turner to run into the pile on first and second down so his job can be "a little more exciting". You heard it here first, folks.
The passing game has been relatively solid. Matt Ryan is really coming into his own as an elite QB in the league. Chalk up the SF game as another game winning, 4th quarter drive for him. I still believe Michael Jenkins is going to make this offense explode in a fury the likes of which we have never seen.
The OL is beginning to plant the seeds of doubt in my mind. Snelling was able to run well, but that could be because he's a bit less predictable than Turner when he's in the game. Matt Ryan got sacked 3 times against SF, and that's unacceptable. The OL, or more specifically, SAM FREAKING BAKER, has his work cut out for him. If I remember right, Baker was on his bearded behind on one of Matty's sacks.
If we're going to be elite, we need a real LT. We can't have an on again, off again LT. We will lose in the first round of the playoffs with one of those.
In short, I think Turner is having trouble because teams are keying on him when he's in the game. People are calling for Snelling to get more touches because he's a more complete back, but I think that's the wrong way of looking at it. Turner needs to get his carries, but until we start running him like we did in '08, he'll continue to be a time gobbler that puts us in 3rd and longs. Passing game is fine, but should improve with Jenkins. OL not a liability yet in my opinion.
We won't be able to win every 3rd down we get stuck in, and we need our running game to pick up the slack.
What do you all think? The old saying, "Your team is never as bad as you think and is never as good as you think, they're somewhere in the middle." (or whatever it is.) probably rings true here.
What do you guys expect from the Falcons offense? And do you think that Turner's running is suffering because of the way we're using him? I look forward to discussing this with you all!