Of late, Michael “Burner” Turner has been one of the most debated players on the Atlanta Falcons. Is he a victim of the Curse of 370 or of Mike Mularkey? Is he ready to dominate again, or fade into the sunset? As I read all of the back and forth about the Burner, I realized that much of the argument about him, regardless of topic, is colored by a misconception of who and what he is.
The terms “pounding” and “punishing,” when applied to running backs, speak to the back’s ability to deliver a blow to the tackler. In other words, a “punishing” runner makes the defender pay a price – sometimes a high one – for the audacity of trying to make a tackle. Jamal Anderson (clip) and William Andrews (clip) were devastating runners; they would drop their pads before impact and “punish” the defender with a blow. Michael Turner (clip) runs in a more upright stance, and does not change his pad level very much. He does not deliver the same kind of impact to the defender. In short, Michael Turner is not a “punishing” running back. So, what is he?
His chief weapon is speed. Speed and leg drive. His two weapons are leg drive, and speed, and cat-like balance. His three weapons are leg drive, and speed, and cat-like balance, and upper body strength. Amongst his weaponry are leg drive, and speed, and cat-like balance, and upper body strength, and a nice red uniform.
Yes, that’s right – Michael Turner is a speed back. He looks for a seam, and then explodes past the LBs when he finds one. His combination of size, strength, and speed makes him hard to tackle, but do not confuse “hard to tackle” with “punishing” or “pounding.” He resembles a power back because he has the balance and strength to stay upright in traffic, and he has the leg drive to keep moving in a pile. However, when Turner runs through tackles, he does it with his acceleration and his leg drive, not by delivering a blow. Remember - it’s all about the level of the shoulder-pads at impact.
Feel free to disagree with me – and I’m sure many of you will – in the comments below. Just don’t call the Spanish Inquisition.