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NFL Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons Run Game Not Necessarily Solved by Steven Jackson

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Jackson should provide a significant upgrade on departed Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner. No other team has picked up Turner because he’s cooked. Jackson will provide both more speed out of the backfield and an additional receiving option, which is critical since Atlanta really has no halfway decent options at tight end or receiver aside from the superb trio of Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.

However, the offensive line was worse at run blocking in my opinion than Turner was at actual running. Turner’s been over the hill for years, but it truly bit him last year because he’s always needed a decent line push to bowling-ball his way down the field. Jackson’s numbers have suffered in St. Louis yet that line was a better run blocking unit in 2012 than Atlanta’s will be in 2013. Atlanta graded out 26th in that regard in 2012 (via Pro Football Focus); St. Louis finished 25th.

Lamarr Holmes looked good at right tackle in the Week 1 preseason contest. Peter Konz could very well improve upon his return to the natural center role. Sam Baker had a career year at left tackle in 2012. These are reasons for optimism when it comes to predicting a resurgent running year for Jackson.

The cons are that the guards remain a huge question mark and Gonzalez ranked 61 among 62 qualifying tight ends in PFF run block grading last season. Jackson may eclipse Turner’s 800-yard rushing total, though I don’t think he clears it by all that much — probably somewhere in the 1,000-1,200 range at 4.0 YPC. Probably matches Turner’s 10 TDs due to continuing line inability to get push in short yardage.

What makes S-Jax a No. 2 fantasy back will be his production through the air, as it seems offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter plans on using him “all over the line.”

“It reminds me of my younger years (in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams) when I was used more as a receiver out of the backfield,” Jackson said, via the team website. “It allows me to use more tools in the shed that I have and possess. It allows me to work on things I haven’t done in a number of years.”

Thomas Emerick is a Senior Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEmerick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google