FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. --Sometimes change is good. Sometimes consistency is welcomed.
The top three running backs from 2008 remain on the Falcons roster, including Pro Bowler Michael Turner. Of course, the team may be looking at a different path to success in the running game once the 2009 season gets underway.
The addition of Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez gives offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey more options in his play calling. Fourth-year running back Jerious Norwood offers flexibility and versatility. Another veteran presence has been added in Verron Haynes. Ovie Mughelli looks forward to learning new blocking schemes. Thomas Brown is healthy. Jason Snelling enters his third year as a special teams ace and between-the-tackles power.
But something will remain the same, despite any tweaks to the system.
"We're doing the same thing we've been doing," Norwood said. "That's going out every day, working and trying to get better. We're just like everybody else. We have to go out and compete day-in and day-out and do our best."
No. 27 Thomas Brown
5'8" | 203 lbs. | Experience: 2
Brown challenged for the No. 3 running back position before a groin injury in the last week of the preseason put him on injured reserve. The Falcons kept three tailbacks last season but, if Brown and Snelling show something on special teams, its not out of the question for that number to increase. Brown ranks fifth in Georgia history with 529 rushing attempts and 2,646 yards. "Thomas is a very hard-working guy and I think he'll be in the mix when we start to talk about our 53-man roster," Head Coach Mike Smith said.
No. 32 Jerious Norwood
5' 11" | 209 lbs. | Experience: 4For three seasons many fans have wanted to see Norwood more involved in the running game. But touches aren't the only measure of production. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season with six touchdowns. He was also the team's primary kickoff return specialist. If coaches want to limit Turner's carries in 2009, Norwood figures to be the first option. However, Smith often talks about the stable of running backs. The group has a varied skill set that pays dividends in different situations.
No. 33 Michael Turner
5'10" | 256 lbs. | Experience: 6Six years experience may seem like a lot, but Turner carried the ball less than 300 times in the first four years of his career. He ran 376 times for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. That got him to the Pro Bowl and into the discussion of best running backs in the league. Look for Turner to be just as strong -- if not stronger -- in his second Russell Falcons Training Camp but, with the addition of Gonzalez and the development of other offensive weapons, his role could be tweaked.
No. 34 Ovie Mughelli
6'1" | 252 lbs. | Experience: 7Mughelli has many job responsibilities. In 2006, the year before he signed a free agent deal with Atlanta, he caught 21 passes for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With the Falcons turbulent 2007 and a new offense in 2008, it's taken some time for many recent additions to get settled. Mughelli has 14 catches for 93 yards over the past two seasons. "I'm excited about year two (under Mularkey), especially now that coach has started to see I'm more than a blocking fullback and incorporated into more complex blocking schemes, more run plays and more pass plays, too," he said. "The second year I can focus more on the physical part and not worry about the mental."
No. 36 Verron Haynes
5'9" | 233 lbs. | Experience: 7Haynes spent 2008 out of football but returns home to Georgia for a shot with the Falcons. He spent the previous years of his career in Pittsburgh, totaling 738 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He also has 58 career receptions (two scores).
No. 44 Jason Snelling5'11" | 233 lbs. | Experience: 3Snelling was the team's leading special teams tackler and a contributor on offense last season. He got into games more as the season progressed and pushed his career totals to 105 rushing yards (one touchdown) and 89 receiving yards (11.1-yard per catch average). He's been a solid player in each of the last two preseasons and, in body type, may be the most comparable running back to Turner. The team has many quality backs so keep an eye on Snelling, Brown and others during camp to see who gets time as a backup.