It was no surprise that Michael Turner was on the proverbial “chopping block” being that he was set to make $6.9 million if he was on the roster in the 2013 season but the questions remained of exactly where would the running game production come from and that question was finally answered on Thursday. The Atlanta Falcons have signed free agent running back Steven Jackson, formerly of the St. Louis Rams. Jackson signed a 3 year, $12 million contract, with $4 million guaranteed and brings a much needed boost to the running game to complement the weapons in the passing game for the Falcons offense.
After listening to fans it the reaction seemed mixed and understandably so being that a couple of free agent signings have not quite panned out for the “Dirty Birds” in Ray Edwards and Lofa Tatupu. There is also a growing concern that running backs turning 30 and up typically see diminishing production and the team just acquired someone that will turn 30 before the season starts. Also to the concern of some both Jackson and Turner entered the National Football League the same year but Jackson became a starter sooner, while Turner continued to back up Ladainian Tomlinson in San Diego, so the perception is Jackson has more mileage on his body than Turner. The injury “bug” is also a concern for Jackson. He has missed games over his career due to injury, credited to his style of running. One could understand the skepticism behind this acquisition.
On the flip side however, when the Falcons signed Steven Jackson, they inked a 6″2′, 240 pound wrecking ball, who is a physical runner, with balance and great body lean, HE DOES NOT GO BACKWARDS! Turner was a great pick up for the Mike Mularkey offense, former offensive coordinator but with the change in offensive philosophy his playing style no longer fit. Just judging from the eye test, Jackson is at full speed much quicker than Turner, whereas Turner wore on the opposition and was more effective late in games. The ability to catch out of the backfield has been instantly upgraded with Jackson now on the roster. In 2012, Turner had 19 receptions for 128 yards compared to Jackson with 38 receptions for 321 yards. A much more telling stat with the passing game, Turner’s receptions resulted in two 1st downs versus 13 for Jackson. This helps both offensively and defensively in that drives are being sustained and the possibilities of more points remain. From a schematic standpoint, if I’m a defensive coordinator exactly how do I game plan for this team?
Overall, bringing in Steven Jackson for the money he is being paid is a very good move for the Atlanta Falcons. He did not “bleed” the team dry from a salary cap standpoint and is a perfect fit offensively for what the Falcons do. I will never go out on a limb and say that Atlanta will definitely be in the SuperBowl. Besides, they have improvements within the defense that must be addressed. However, Jackson if stays healthy and finds his way within the offensive scheme, the Falcons will be a dangerous team in this upcoming season.