|Atlanta says they won't give Turner as many carries in 2012. (US Presswire)|
Michael Turner inexplicably clocked in at No. 95 on Pete Prisco's Top 100 NFL players list. OK, "inexplicably" is a bit strong -- the Falcons back did rush for 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. But those numbers are a bit misleading. Take out his final 170-yard laugher against the MACtion-esque Buccaneers and Turner's season isn't as impressive.
And his numbers in 2012 might be more reflective of reality, as the Falcons apparently don't intend to lean on Turner quite as hard as they have in recent years.
"Mike has been a very consistent player since he's been here. [He's had] back-to-back 1,300-yard seasons," Falcons offensive Dirk Koetter said, per Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We need to keep Mike healthy so that he's as good at the end of the season as he is in the front of the season."
Turner's end-of-season issues should be a concern. Before that Bucs game in 2011, he'd run the ball 84 times for just 280 yards (3.33 yards per carry) over the previous five games. In the final three games of 2010, Turner carried 59 times for just 197 yards (3.34 yards per carry). And Turner dealt with an injury late in 2009.
So the Falcons plan to move closer to a "more by-committee basis," Mike Smith told Daniel Cox of AtlantaFalcons.com. Koetter's comments confirm as much.
"The way this roster has been built, we have some other backs that are very capable. We have good competition in the backfield," Koetter said. "I like our backfield situation. Mike Turner is at the head of the class. But, you know, we're going to need all of those guys."
Doing is a lot harder than saying, however -- Turner claims that the idea of easing up on his carries is something often broached by the team.
"They always say that," Turner said.
Except this year it might really matter. In his four years with the Falcons, Turner has amassed 1,189 carries (10th among all current active runners), an average of 297. That takes into account his 178-carry season, when he was limited to 11 games because of injury.
In short, while Turner has been an impressive back during his time in Atlanta, he's also been leaned on too heavily for most of that time. Giving carries to Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling won't help his final numbers (or his ranking on Prisco's list), but it will keep him fresh for later in the season.
And that could mean an improved offensive attack for Atlanta if they can get back to the playoffs.
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