A day late on this, but that will happen when your Monday is spent working from home with a fever. Cowbell, as it turns out, was not the cure.
But I digress. We're here to talk about Michael Turner, the Falcons' bell cow back who was more bell than cow at the end of last season. I've already written about Turner's surgery, which was such a secret that Turner himself didn't know he was going under the knife until Mike Smith chloroformed him*.
The full impact of that surgery and the injury it was taking care of wasn't appreciated until now. Apparently, D. Orlando Ledbetter writes, Turner's nagging groin injury bothered him from Week 2 on. That means the Burner just wasn't right for 7/8ths of the last season, and in retrospect, it really showed toward the end of the year.
To get a sense for how Turner might do this year and how the injury bit him in 2010, I've turned to stats. After the jump, find 'em and debate 'em.
*Probably did not happen.
Let's start with Turner's full-season stats for 2008-2010:
2008: 376 carries, 1,699 yards, 4.5 yards per carry, 17 touchdowns
2009: 178 carries, 871 yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 10 touchdowns
2010: 334 carries, 1,371 yards, 4.1 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns
Even though he missed most of five games, Turner's 2009 season is probably the best one to compare to 2010. 2008 was an insanely good season, so good that it would be unfair to ask him to repeat it. That doesn't mean I won't be referencing it, however.
So let's put 2009 and 2010 side-by-side. The yards per carry average is what really stands out, with Turner averaging almost a yard more. In 2008, he averaged almost half a yard more. Some of this may have had to do with the offensive line, I'll grant you, but it's clear that our eyes were not deceiving us when we saw Turner hit the pile with less gusto than in years past.
If we dive down into the 2010 season in more detail, we see that all was not well in Burnerland. He began the season with an anemic 42 yards on 19 carries against the Steelers (2.2 YPC), but that's tough to hate on because it's the Steelers. They could make Walter Payton look like a chump.
In total, Turner averaged under four yards a carry in nine different games. Nearly half of those—four in all—were stacked in the last five games of the season, against largely middling run defenses like New Orleans, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Seattle. It's clear, with the advantage of buttsight, that Turner's injury was affecting him more as the season wore on. He averaged just 3.9 on 10 carries against Green Bay, too.
So it would appear the injury really did take its toll on Burner, and that we could expect a return to form now that he's recovered from his off-season surgery. But wait, there's more!
Interestingly enough, these problems were not confined to 2010. Turner's absurd 2009 totals were inflated by dominant weeks against Washington and Carolina, where he piled up 9.2 and 12.3 yards per carry, respectively. He actually had six (!) weeks where he averaged under four yards a carry, and half of those were under three yards a carry.
Can Turner be the dominant force he was in 2008 and parts of 2009 again? History is not on his side, though he has shown greatly improved burst thus far in the 2011 pre-season. With the passing game becoming the central focus point over the next season or so and Turner entering his age 2009 season and coming off two straight injury-marred years, it would seem likely that we're get something between 2008 Turner and 2010 Turner this season. That's plenty good enough, but it's unlikely to be the Touchdown Vampire of yore.
In fact, I think it's safe to assume that between the rise of the passing game and the expected touches that will go to the far more versatile Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers, Turner could actually end up with fewer than 300 carries in 2011. Crazy, no?
Do you agree with that characterization? What are your expectations for Turner in 2011 and beyond?