After he amassed approximately 80 billion carries in 2008, Michael Turner's workload was sure to come down in 2009. Except it didn't. No big deal, considering his workhorse frame. Except it was.
While his rate numbers were actually very good, 2009 was a lost season because of injuries, and that's something the Falcons know they must avoid if they're going to have a balanced offense this season. So they're knocking his workload down in 2010.
Is this old news? Yeah, it is. But after the jump, I'll tell you why it's important news.
For all their weapons in the passing game, the Falcons still lean heavily on the ground game, and by extension, Turner. Matt Ryan isn't yet at the level where he can win every game by himself, and the Falcons still really only have two quality options in the passing game: Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. If they're going to have consistent offensive success in 2010, it's going to come on Turner's gigantic iron legs.
That's what made the way the Falcons handled the Burner this season so indefensible. I don't think it was their fault that he got hurt in the first place, but the way they handled his subsequent "comebacks"—quotations added to indicate disdain flowing from the word like beer from a punctured keg—isn't going to win the coaching staff any awards for caution. Instead of overruling his desire to play, which would be present even if he was clinically dead, the team allowed him to try to come back multiple times, and each time he either exacerbated his existing injury or added a new one. Easily my least favorite subplot of last season.
But give Mike Smith and his crew of not-so-merry men credit for learning from their rare mistakes. He's said on the record that they'll be watching Turner's carries much more closely in 2010, and while it can't prevent a catastrophe entirely, it can go a long way toward it. It's long past time that the Falcons learned to trust Jerious Norwood, who is a quality change of pace back when he's healthy, and the stalwart Jason Snelling. It's counterintuitive in a way, but the best way to ensure arguably our best offensive player wins games for the team is to....use him less. Go figure.
More importantly, I think this reflects a trend the Falcons should look at across the roster. The Falcons could stand to add depth at nearly every position, and with the exception of our starters on the offensive line and Matt Ryan, nobody needs to play every snap. The more quality backups we have, the more we can give our starters a rest, and the fresher and healthier they can be throughout the season. With a playoff berth very much in reach, the team must prepare as though they're going a long way in 2010.
Keeping a rein on Michael Turner is an awfully good way to start.