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Mike Smith: Michael Turner To Have Smaller Role In 2012

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This marks the first time a Falcons coach has ever used "Michael Turner" and "reduced carries" in the same thought.

I've long suspected that 2012 would bring the beginning of the end to the Turner era, one of the most insanely productive stretches by a running back in franchise history. In four seasons, Turner has put up more than 5,200 yards and scored 50 times. Along the way, he's been a fan favorite and a guy who is willing to break a few Eric Weems for an extra yard. He's beloved, and rightfully so.

That said, it's time we recognized the writing on the wall. Turner only averaged over four yards a carry seven out of sixteen regular season games in 2011. He had some truly spectacular games against the Bears, Lions, Panthers and Buccaneers, but the bulk of the season and every season that came before tells a story. Turner is dominant in some games and little more than a clock-chewing battering ram in others. Now that he's 30, that trend isn't going to suddenly reverse itself.

The coaching staff is cognizant of that, which is why they're already talking about limiting Turner's carries. He's still likely to get close to 200 and maybe even more, but the Falcons are likely to draft a young back and Jacquizz Rodgers is ready for a bigger role. No longer does this team have to pound Turner all game long because they have no one else to go with. If the big guy gets 10-15 carries and can't do anything with them, they'll call for relief.

Ultimately, this is the right idea for both the team and the Burner. Turner can do a ton of damage even with more limited carries, and he should be better off behind what I can only hope is a revamped offensive line.

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