I always tell you not to put too much stock into Falcons preseason games. Today, I'm going to make an exception vis a vis the run game.
That's because it looked so damn good against a quality defense, for the first time in recent memory. Everyone from Steven Jackson to Jacquizz Rodgers to Josh Vaughan ran well, piling up yards and finding holes behind a suddenly useful offensive line. It was an extremely encouraging performance, and there's reason to believe it's for real.
In no particular order, here's why this was an important performance:
- Steven Jackson showed excellent vision. There's no question that he moves a little less fluidly than he did in his prime, and he'll need to compensate for that by finding the hole and building a head of steam. Where Turner relied on his power to pry open small holes and get him into the open, Jackson will find the ones the line gives him.
- The line looked much, much better. The Ravens have a potent front seven on their worst days, and the Falcons managed to spring Jackson and Rodgers in particular repeatedly for quality gains. There's no denying that Garrett Reynolds and Lamar Holmes still have some work to do on the right side of the line, but this was a leap forward. Even in preseason, when things are as vanilla as they come, running well against players of this caliber matters.
- The Falcons have some options at guard if Justin Blalock or Reynolds falter. Joe Hawley looked solid last night, while Harland Gunn and Phillipkeith Manley showed off nasty run-blocking skills as a tandem at left and right guard. They may not be ready for the spotlight, but it's beyond useful to have two guys you can plug in for a goal line package who can stand up well at the point of attack.
- Jacquizz Rodgers is still incredibly shifty.
To be clear, I don't expect the Falcons to suddenly have one of the league's best rushing attacks this year. They'll likely be closer to average or slightly above average, but that qualifies as an improvement. If they can convert short yardage situations, this offense goes from dynamic to world-crushing.
How are you feeling about the ground game this year?