The Atlanta Falcons really opened up their offense, like many had been calling for them to do, in the 2012 NFL season. They threw 615 pass attempts while rushing the ball just 378 times. They relied on Matt Ryan and the receiving core of Roddy White, Julio Jones and company to carry them more so than Michael Turner last year.
With Turner gone and Steven Jackson now likely to be their number one running back, the Falcons are still likely going to favor the pass, especially considering that they are talking about a contract extension with Ryan that would likely pay him over $100 million. However, when they hand the ball off, it’s going to go to Jackson the majority of the time.
The presence of Jackson and him likely getting most of the carries doesn’t eliminate the fact that the Falcons still have a dynamic young running back on their roster behind Jackson in Jacquizz Rodgers. Last season as Turner’s backup, Rodgers got 94 carries and took them for 362 yards and one touchdown.
However, the most interesting part about Rodgers’ performance last season is how he performed in the receiving game. He was targeted 59 times in the passing game and made 53 catches for 402 yards, one touchdown and 17 first downs. He’s got great speed and is a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield.
Considering the Falcons opening up their offense, it would be an interesting wrinkle to use Rodgers in a similar manner to the way the New Orleans Saints use Darren Sproles in their offense. Sproles isn’t their featured back and actually sees more touches in the passing game than the running game and it makes him and the offense much more effective.
By focusing on Rodgers as a pass-catcher out of the backfield more often, that’s going to force defenders, particularly linebackers and safeties, to stay in closer than they might otherwise, which will open up the field more for White and Jones, both of whom are big-play threats. It may be an unsuccessful venture if they tried Rodgers in that role, but it’s definitely worth a shot.