When the Falcons committed in the offseason to lightening lead running back Michael Turner's load, it obviously meant a bigger role for second-year back Jacquizz Rodgers. The inclusion of a new screen game into Atlanta's offense was also promising for Rodgers, a back that is equally dangerous as a runner and receiver out of the backfield.
In Sunday's losing effort to the Bucs, Rodgers continued to show why that was a good decision in the offseason. He led the team in both rushing and receiving, carrying the ball five times for 28 rushing yards and catching eight passes for 50 yards. He ends the season with career highs in both categories: 362 rushing yards and 402 receiving yards.
Rodgers' is a deceptively tough back running between the tackles and he's picked up tough yards for the Falcons in tandem with Turner. His receiving has been a blessing for the Falcons this season even though they've got three talented targets in wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Rodgers offers the Falcons a threat to opposing defenses as a runner or receiver, so when he's in the game, he's offering the Falcons a true dual-threat weapon.
In Sunday's game as the Falcons got down early, the run game slowly went away as the Falcons had to use a more big-play approach on offense through passing to get back into the game. Though he's a big part of the offense at this point in his second season, Rodgers doesn't always know how he'll be used one particular game to the next. He's instead used as the Falcons see fit based on what is happening within the game.
"It's all based on the flow of the game and how things are going," Rodgers said following Sunday's game. "If things are going well we're going to run the ball, if we're up. We're trailing and playing from behind, there's no doubt we've got to pass the ball. It just depends on the game flow."
As the game flows and the Falcons get Rodgers more touches, he's shown what he can do with them. Sunday's game was the second-highest number of touches he's gotten this season, tied with Week 8's 13. In Week 3 he had 15 and did a lot with those, including scoring a receiving touchdown. Sunday's combined yardage receiving and rushing is Rodgers' highest of his career.
The fifth-round pick has been very consistent throughout this season, but has quietly gotten more opportunities late in the season. In seven of Atlanta's last eight games he's gotten double-figure touches. While Turner is getting a lot of goal line carries for touchdowns, Rodgers helps make the offense go up and down the field. He's happy with what's happened so far, but much like his Falcons teammates, he's hungry for me.
"You can never be pleased and content with yourself," Rodgers said. "You just want to continue to get better. As a player there's no limit to the learning and getting better so that's what I try to do every day."