The ideal rushing attack in today's NFL features a battering ram and an elusive scatback, a combination that gives teams a balanced set of backs to bludgeon opposing defenses with.
In an ideal world, the Falcons would already have that attack in place. In practice, however, Jerious Norwood has been underutilized or hurt for much of the last three seasons. That, in turn, has put an even heavier burden on workhorse Michael Turner.
In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Falcons got their new lightning in Jacquizz Rodgers. The question now becomes how they'll use him.I thought it would be instructive to look at how the team used Norwood when he was healthy. When Mike Smith arrived on the scene in 2008, Norwood was able to play in all 16 games. Here's what he did:
2008: 95 carries, 489 yards, 5.1 average, 36 receptions, 338 receptions
That was far more successful than he'd be in 2009, when he got 76 carries through 10 games and piled up only 252 yards and 3.3 yards per carry. He also got 19 catches for 186 yards, providing some value as a pass catcher out of the backfield. In 2010, Norwood got hurt almost immediately and managed only two carries for eight yards.
So where does that leave Rodgers? These two are not identical. Norwood had better straight line speed and was taller, but Rodgers is the more durable, powerful back. Both are agile and capable of catching passes out of the backfield, but Rodgers is the new regime's pick and is thus more likely to get more opportunities.
The Falcons will use the man they call Jacquizz in a similar way to Norwood initially. He'll be asked to come in on clear passing downs and be a weapon out of the backfield, something that Turner with his stone hands and Snelling with his lack of top-end speed could not do. He'll get maybe five-to-ten carries a game as a change of pace back for Turner, with the potential to earn more if he's effective.
Rodgers is a fantastic fit for the team based on his ability, and for what he offers: A skill set similar to Norwood's, more durability and arguably even more upside than our former speed back. Let's hope it works out.
The thunder and lightning attack is back in Atlanta. Like it?