DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 23: Jacquizz Rodgers #22 of the Atlanta Falcons runs for a short gain during the fourth quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 23, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. The Falcons defeated the Lions 23-16. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
The average fan would probably not use "exciting" and "Dirk Koetter" in the same sentence. That might even be true in the Koetter family.
Still, if you're a backup offensive skill player, you've got to be excited about Koetter rolling into town.
Mike Mularkey was old school in more ways than one. He favored a strong ground game with a workhorse back, of course. His passing attack showed glimpses of creativity but generally favored dropbacks and a strong emphasis on timing. These things will change a bit as the Falcons transition to a new era.
The biggest change for many players, though, might be how often reserves are used.
Exhibit A? Sure. Let's take a closer look at the number of the team's backup wide receivers and tight ends. I'll list Harry Douglas here, as well, but do keep in mind that he was on the field often as a slot receiver.
Jacquizz Rodgers: 57 carries, 205 yards, 21 receptions, 188 yards, 2 touchdowns
Jason Snelling: 44 carries, 151 yards, 26 receptions, 179 yards, 1 touchdown
Harry Douglas: 39 receptions, 498 yards, 1 touchdown
Kerry Meier: 0 receptions, 0 yards, 0 touchdowns
Eric Weems: 11 receptions, 98 yards, 0 touchdowns
In total, the team's backup running backs caught just three fewer passes than the team's 3-5 receivers combined. Snelling and Rodgers combined, meanwhile, had 101 carries, or roughly a third of Michael Turner's carries combined.
Now, we can argue all day about how much this matters, or how effective these backups would've been if they had been given more run. One thing is indisputably true, however: Mike Mularkey ran with his top horses. On those days when Roddy White was shut down—let's use last year's 2 reception, 21 yard performance as an example—and Julio Jones was out, he didn't do a whole hell of a lot to get the ball in Douglas' (2 catches, 57 yards) or Meier's (0 catches, 0 yards) hands. Similarly, when Turner was wearing down late in the season and being pummeled thanks to a weak offensive line, few carries were in the offing for Rodgers and Snelling.
Again, Mularkey was pretty successful with this approach during his tenure, and backups are generally backups for a reason. I don't dispute that. I do believe that it leads to veterans wearing down late and does not attempt to utilize those lesser-used players to create unique matchup issues for defenses, or to put a fresh set of legs in the game.
Koetter ran with MJD in Jacksonville, yes, but he had no backup options worth a damn. I have to believe that with the Falcons' depth, he'll get reserves involved more often. That's gotta be exciting for guys like Rodgers and Meier.
This is true to a lesser extent on the defense, where Nolan will likely rotate players in more often to create interesting matchup problems in his pass rushing. But BVG was never quite as attached to his starters as Mularkey was.
Do you think the reserves will get more run, and either way, how do you feel about that?