Falcons' Turner wrestles with signs of decline

Dan Parr
October 16, 2012

The Falcons are 6-0 for the first time in franchise history. They have a 3½-game lead in the race for the NFC South title, but the last thing head coach Mike Smith wants is for his players to get too comfortable during a Week Seven bye.

Smith apparently will not need to caution RB Michael Turner about becoming overly satisfied.

Turner expressed his frustration with the team’s running game after he matched a season-low, rushing only 11 times in Atlanta’s win over the Raiders on Sunday. He said he was still confident in himself but told reporters they would have to take their inquiry to management when he was asked whether the team had lost confidence in him.

Turner rushed for only 33 yards (3.0 average) vs. Oakland and has 84 carries for 357 yards (4.3 average) and three touchdowns through six games. Atlanta’s complementary back, Jacquizz Rodgers, has not fared any better, rushing 31 times for 77 yards (2.5 average), but this is unfamiliar territory for Turner, who has been a heavily utilized workhorse since he became the first marquee addition of the Mike Smith-Thomas Dimitroff regime in 2008. Turner has had at least seven games with 20 carries or more in each of the three seasons in which he has played in every game for Atlanta. This season, he has yet to have more than 18 carries in a game.

Our Falcons sources say the team has been far from content with the running game’s frequent ineffectiveness this season and is eager to work on improving it during the bye, so Turner is not alone in his frustration. The issue for Turner might be that he is sensing his own decline in his first season over the age of 30 and that the Falcons are sensing it, too.