In amidst the terrible nightmare and chaos the Atlanta Falcons have endured five games in, one thing that has been crystal clear is this: The Falcons need Steven Jackson to be healthy and return in a flash, literally.
While running backs Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers have ran the ball well in certain moments of the game, neither of those backs can impact the game in a way Jackson can. Although Jackson has played in only two games, he was playing at a high level before he had his hamstring injury that has sidelined him since Week 2.
For a team that is probably four plays away from easily being a 4-1 team, the 1-4 Falcons have struggled mightily in the red zone, where Jackson’s presence alone could have altered opposing defenses in how they defended the Falcons. Despite the poor red zone execution for the Falcons throughout the year, having Jackson in the lineup would make the Falcons instantly better in that area.
If the Falcons want to have any chance of making a run for a Wild Card spot, or to win games in general, they will need to re-establish their running game which begins with Jackson.
With Julio Jones out and Roddy White nursing a hamstring injury on top of a high-ankle sprain, the Falcons’ fierce passing attack will most likely not be the same. With Jones in the lineup the Falcons have been the third best passing team in the NFL at 313 passing yards per game. On the ground, however, the Falcons are ranked 25th, gaining only 78.4 rushing yards per game.
No matter how good Matt Ryan is as a quarterback, losing his weapons at an alarming rate due to injuries will hamper his ability to maintain one of the best passing offenses in the NFL. Tom Brady is without a doubt one of the game’s finest passers, but even a great quarterback like himself is proving how difficult it is to maintain a high level of efficiency when he doesn’t have his top three wideouts.
For the past three years, however, the Achilles heel for the Falcons has been their defense, which is still very true even in the 2013 season. With that being said, the Falcons’ inability to run the ball and gain a single yard on third-and-one is completely unacceptable.
With the Falcons receiving corps taking a huge hit and Ryan without his top two wide receivers, the football gods are almost forcing them to run the ball, which might be very beneficial to the Falcons at this point of the year.
The need for Jackson is at an all-time high because he may be the one player to help the Falcons get back on track not just in the running game, but help gain back some of their swagger and confidence despite what their record says.
Jackson was brought in to be a complementary player to an already explosive offense, and now with the Falcons losing players left to right, Jackson’s role has been switched from complementary to primary. Whether the Falcons can make a run or not will be up to how well Jackson plays.
In the end, the Falcons need Jackson, as he will be the key in how well they do in the second half to their 2013 season.