The 5-foot-10, 244-pound Michael Turner is a rare commodity, a big man who can run like a guy 30 or 40 pounds lighter. Before he got to Atlanta, he had compiled three runs of 70 yards or longer in only 228 carries. But such talent comes with thoroughbred qualities. Unlike big backs such as Jerome Bettis, Turner’s game is dependent on his ability to break away, not simply break tackles.
“I had no burst,” said Turner, one of a declining number of workhorse backs. Over the past three years, there have been an average of fewer than six backs to get at least 300 carries each season as more and more teams go to the two-back system. From 2000 to 2006, the average was nearly 10 backs a year with at least 300 carries, if not a few with 400.
“When you start talking about 400 carries, that’s probably too much,” Falcons coach Mike Smith(notes) said. “But we definitely want to see Michael getting the big share of the carries. That’s what works for him.”