Tag:Atlanta Falcons
Posted on: June 23, 2010 9:09 am

Michael Turner Reveals Why He Struggled in '09

Falcons running back Michael Turner was not himself last season. Sure, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry, nearly a half-yard more than in his 1,699-yard debut season in Atlanta the year before. But watch the film and you’ll see an inconsistent, sluggish runner who struggled to change directions or hit his holes with great initial burst. Some would assume Turner’s late-season ankle problems were a factor, but the 28-year-old (27 at the time) was struggling early on, well before injuries hit.

Now, we know why. In an article by SI.com’s Jim Trotter, Turner says, "If you go back and look at some pictures of me from last year at this time, I probably looked big -- a lot bigger than normal," Turner says sheepishly while kicking back after a recent organized team activity. "I was heavy, too heavy. It was hard for me to overcome."

Turner is listed at 250 pounds. He didn’t specify what he weighed last season, but said he’s back to his desired weight this summer. (He wouldn’t be discussing the issue publicly if he weren’t.) Whether this translates to more production remains to be seen.

Turner is one of the best tackle-breaking runners in the game. He’s only been a featured back for two seasons in his career (he backed up LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego his first four years), but his bruising style of play can take a toll. The Falcons have excellent depth at running back with electrifying (though raw) Jerious Norwood and downhill inside runner Jason Snelling. With a full-strength Turner and Mike Mularkey’s power-based scheme. the Falcons could challenge Carolina, Minnesota, Dallas and New York for the most punishing rushing attack in the NFC.

--Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter.

Category: NFL
Posted on: June 14, 2010 7:40 pm

Dunta Robinson Key in Atlanta

Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder spoke to the Atlanta Journal Constitution about the upgrades to the Falcons defense. The article refers to the upgrades as a “$75 million renovation”, though a huge chunk of that derives from non-guaranteed money in cornerback Dunta Robinson’s $57 million contract.

With Atlanta adding no prominent pass-rushers to a unit that ranked 26th in total sacks last season, Robinson is the key piece. He’s not a playmaker (seven interceptions over the last five seasons), but he’s a play-stopper. In Houston, he often shadowed the opposing team’s top wide receiver.

However, Mike Smith runs a zone-based scheme that designates a left and right corner. Robinson may not be given the freedom to shadow a specific opponent; VanGorder said the Falcons have not yet decided how they will use their corners in 2010.

VanGorder was asked two really good questions in this interview. Below are his responses, followed by analysis from a non-invested third party.

Q: Are we going to see more blitzing from the defense in 2010?
VanGorder: You just don't decide that you're a blitzing team. There are down and distance factors. There are quarterback factors. There's your personnel with respect to playing man-to-man. There are so many variables that go into making that decision. I think philosophically, we'd like to be considered a very aggressive defense. We'll continue to work that way.

Analysis: Often, the Falcons’ only chance at generating pressure last season was via the blitz. Man coverage is key in blitzing; with Robinson’s abilities and Atlanta still having no keynote pass-rushers other than John Abraham, expect even more aggressive blitz concepts in 2010.

Q: Do you have people who can get to the quarterback?
VanGorder: We're better. I think we're better. I think that the process over the last three years has been to build a bigger, faster defense. We certainly have added to the depth of our defense. I like where we are right now with respect to our personnel. We have to keep developing and decide what they are going to do well and take advantage of all of their skills.

Analysis: Almost anytime a coach uses words like “development” and “depth”, what he’s really saying is that his starters stink. VanGorder knows that defensive end Jamaal Anderson can’t rush the passer, and he’s praying (but not betting) that either Lawrence Sidbury or Kroy Biermann emerges as a genuine pass-rushing specialist in training camp.

---Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com