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Recipe for Explosion


What exactly is this offense of the Atlanta Falcons that's got everyone talking?

I've been really caught up on this explosive thing since the preseason began and I've asked a lot of questions. It's starting to take shape in my eyes.

I can caution you one thing: don't expect a complete abandonment of the running game.

Explosive can mean many things to many people. The only people that may truly know what is expected are head coach Mike Smith, offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, quarterbacks coach Bob Bratkowski and QB Matt Ryan. Even they would likely each tell you slightly different things.

One thing everyone knows by now is that Atlanta wants to be more explosive. They want to put up yards, points and wins in bunches. That's explosive.

Michael Turner said on Wednesday he believes the Falcons are still a run-first team and after the success they've had running the ball the last few seasons, there's no reason not to believe him.

Wide receiver Harry Douglas says he believes the offense has the playmakers to be explosive working within the same playbook they've used in recent years. He's repeated this preseason that a short screen with the right blockers can go for huge gains. He's shown that to be true.

The thing everyone may be missing is that Atlanta's offense doesn't have to change drastically to a high-flying down-the-field passing attack to be more explosive. In fact, that style of offense offers huge risks with the rewards. Instead, perhaps they want to just get better at what they already do well with better success.

Blocking from wide receivers in Atlanta's offense will likely always be important because the running game will never completely go away. Turner didn't just say they were still a run-first team, though. On Wednesday he also said they've got pieces, like solid blockers, that can make the run game explosive as well.

The only major addition to the offense is Julio Jones, a young dynamic wide receiver who also happens to be a stud in the art of blocking.

"We're still a run-first team," Turner said. "Explosive plays don't mean all come from the passing game. It can come from the run game, too. Hopefully with the addition of Julio and a healthy Harry Douglas, we've got Roddy (White) out there and Tony (Gonzalez), things will open up even more for me in the run game. We can get explosive plays throwing the ball down field and running the ball."

Explosion everywhere. That's the desired outcome. When defenders must respect everything the Falcons can do all over the field, their ability to key in on the run diminishes, which is what Turner is hoping for as he salivates over the thought of four man fronts trying to slow his already highly productive running game.

The term run-first can be a little misleading, however. Last season, the Falcons actually passed more times than they ran the ball, yet they were still considered a team basing their offense off the run.

This preseason, they've shown glimpses of what may be to come, working significantly more on the pass. In 121 plays from scrimmage, the Falcons have rushed on 46 of them. That's around 38 percent of the time.

That number could mean anything. What it says to me is Atlanta's offense will be better capable of passing and taking advantage of all the wide receivers, and the plays to get them the ball, once the regular season rolls around. But some of the factors that have made the Falcons successful in the past (strong inside run game, ball control) will still be present.

Atlanta appears to want to better capitalize on its opportunities; strike deep and fast without warning and let the run game keep carving up defenses.

What that means for a guy like Turner is perhaps a few less carries, which won't be a bad thing for his health, and fewer defenders to run over. Turner is a back that is capable of winning one-on-one matchups all day.

That's a recipe for explosion.

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