The FalconsLife message board on AtlantaFalcons.com is where die-hard Falcons fans go to talk, share ideas and discuss every imaginable topic concerning the Falcons.
During the offseason we'll take a look at a hot topic on the Talk About the Falcons department of FalconsLife and examine what's on the minds of Falcons fans.
The modern day NFL says running backs aren't what they used to be. With the progression of the passing game, the running game has become more of a decoy to keep defenses off balance. These days a running back's ability to catch the ball is as important as what he can do running it. Still, whenever a team lands a back that is truly capable of leading the team, they reward him and keep him around.
Recently, Jacquizz Rodgers has been one of the hot topics on FalconsLife. The question was posed by keatross14: "Can Rodgers be a 3 Down RB?"
After being selected in the fifth round of last season's draft, Rodgers' development was gradual over the season. As he worked to earn the trust of the coaching staff, they began to put him into the game in more and more situations. Early in training camp, the conversation about Rodgers was about his blocking and his ability to understand blocking assignments. Players like quarterback Matt Ryan said if the rookie back could do those well, he had the talent to be on the field.
The question of whether Rodgers can be an every-down back is an interesting one. At this point, it may not be necessary. Devonta Freeman has been the workhorse since 2008 and one of the elite running backs in the game over that time. Head coach Mike Smith has hinted that in 2012, the Falcons will look to lower Turner's carries some in an effort to keep the 30-year-old running back healthy. The Falcons also have Jason Snelling returning, a back with significant versatility. In addition to Rodgers there is Devonta Freeman, a backup for his entire career and special teams player, but has shown promise during preseason looks.
So a full compliment of running backs means Rodgers won't need to be the bellcow right away, but it's fun to wonder if he could be.
The opinion on Rodgers is that he has the ability to be what many in the NFL call a "feature back". His smaller size cause some to believe he's just the other type of back, the "change-of-pace" variety. Rodgers is a solid five-foot-size and 196 pounds. His size is similar to Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice, two of the league's best and most versatile backs. His flashes some ability like Darren Sproles, New Orleans' do-everything-back, but a back not many say can stand to carry the ball 25 times per game.
Until Rodgers does it, there will always be questions. Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote during training camp last season that he felt Rodgers was a steal in the fifth round based on what he'd heard around the league. He felt Rodgers had Ray Rice potential.
Some of the Falcons fan base sees a different smaller back, one they knew and loved.
"I think he can (be a three-down running back)," wrote The Falcon Jedi Knight. "And I never say that lightly. I think Rodgers can be the next Warrick Dunn."
Dunn, already a two-time Pro Bowler, joined the Falcons at 27 in 2002 and strung together some remarkable seasons before being released in 2008 and becoming a minority owner of the Falcons in 2009. The knock against Dunn was always his size, but he overcame his five-foot-nine, under-200-pounds frame to earn three Pro Bowl bids and become one of the most versatile and dangerous backs of his era.
A number of fans agreed with The Falcon Jedi Knight's assessment of Rodgers and it's not difficult to see the comparison. Hashbrown3 said he believes the running back can do it because of his quicks and shiftiness on the field, limiting the number of direct shots he'll take. He also cites Rodgers' one career fumble in college, a trait highly necessary in a running back who is controlling the running game.
There is no agreement on this topic, as is the case with many, but most Falcons fans agree the future for Rodgers is exciting. Quizztorris explains the danger of Rodgers so well, sharing that a back with multiple abilities is just as dangerous without the ball in his hands.
"He absolutely can be an every down back," he wrote. "Plus I think that adds so much more uncertainty to what we're going to do on third down. Are we going to hand off, pass, screen, etc. Someone commented that it might lead to injuries. I'm not sure what it is about short stocky backs, but they never get hurt. MJD, and Ray Rice are always playing. Sportsscience needs to explain it."
The debate continues on, but most Falcons fans have been energized by what they saw from Rodgers, affectionately known as "Quizz" in the fanbase. If Rodgers can continue his progression and maybe be somewhere between Rice, Dunn and Sproles, they'll be very pleased, regardless of the title he eventually earns.