A few thoughts on the local NFL team, before the newly released Grady Jackson takes his vengeance by devouring his former team.
On Defense - considering how unprodcutive the Offense has been, the Defense isn't performing as poorly as you would think. 24th Rated overall, but holding up favorably in 3rd Down situations (collapses on 3rd were a staple of the Donatell regime), only allowing a 38% conversion rate. Also - it appears the Falcons may have a rising star in strongside linebacker Michael Boley, who is 3rd in the NFL in tackles, and has 2 interceptions to his name.
On Offense - The main reason I'm writing this. Most people regard Bob Petrino as an offensive mind in the mold of June Jones or Mike Martz.
However - In his time at Louisville, and his lone year as Auburn's Offensive Coordinator, Bobby P. enjoyed crushing other team's souls with equal parts run and pass. Coaching Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown on the Plains in '02, they combined for nearly 1900 yards rushing. His backs were also collectively exceeding the 2000 yard mark in his seasons at Louisville with regularity, including Michael Bush and Eric Shelton spearheading a 3,005 yard output in '04. Safe to say they would have exceeded that number last year had Bush not broken his leg against Kentucky.
My point is - where's the running game, Coach? Unfortunately, it's in the hands of Warrick Dunn most of the time.
This, of course, is maddening to any Falcons fan who has spent even one game watching Jerious Norwood get 6 or 7 carries, and still post at least 30-40 yards. Quite simply, he's a homerun hitter, as evidenced by the fact that all three of his career rushing touchdowns have gone for 67 or more yards (check out a few here). He also flashes a nasty streak when finishing his run - showing a bit of the powerback that Petrino would like to have back there.
A closer look at the stats makes it even more maddening:
Norwood: 47 car. 272 yards 5.8 att 1TD
Dunn: 95 car. 292 yards 3.1 att 1TD
You don't have to be a mathematician to see that Jerious has half as many carries, and almost as many yards. This also goes in the receiving category where Norwood has 17 Catches for 143yds., and Dunn has 18 for 78yds.
I will point out that I think Warrick Dunn is one of the finest men in the NFL, and has had a tremendous career. It's likely he'll pass the 10,000 yard plateau by the end of this year, and he will be one of the NFL's Top 20 all-time rushers in terms of yards. Not bad for a guy most thought too small to be an every down back in the NFL. That being said, he'll be 33 shortly after this season ends. I shudder to think that that he's only 3.5 years older than me...but I'm also not an elite athlete.
It's quite simple - The Falcons need to get their running game going. The offensive line is in shambles, and the quarterback holds the ball too long. Without the run, defenses are loading up on the pass. A 23 carries a game average - 13 of which go to a guy averaging 3 yards a tote - is not going to cut it.
Time to let your playmaker make some plays. Just give me one game where he gets 20 carries. If he isn't over 100 yards by game's end, I'll stop complaining.