Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I came up with a new nickname for Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner. From now on I think I'll call Turner "Jackson Browne."
Why? Because he's running on empty.
"Tom Petty" would be an equally fitting moniker for the free-falling halfback.
Through two games, Turner has rushed for a pitiful 74 yards on 28 carries, an average of 2.6 yards per carry. That's two yards below his career average and a yard and a half worse than Turner's previous career-low of 4.1 yards per attempt set in 2010.
This is entirely new territory for Turner, who has finished among the league's top three in rushing yards three out of his last four seasons.
Only Jacksonville's Maurice-Jones Drew and Baltimore's Ray Rice finished the year with more rushing yards than Turner in 2011. This season 32 players have racked up more yards than Turner, including two quarterbacks (Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton).
The last time Turner began a season this poorly was in 2007. He wasn't even a starter back then.
Turner used to be a master at moving the pile, shedding tacklers left and right with his sturdy 250-pound frame and his low center of gravity. Turner was more than a human bowling ball: he was a human wrecking ball.
But those days are over now. Monday night against the Broncos, Turner needed three tries from the Denver one-yard line to score a touchdown.
Graceful has never been a term used to describe Turner, but even for him, this touchdown was ugly. Turner crossed the plane for about a split second before the Denver defensive line tossed him back where he came from like an angry pitbull gnawing at a defenseless chew-toy. Not exactly "SportsCenter Top Ten" material.
Turner finished the evening with a meager 42 yards from scrimmage on 17 rushing attempts. As unimpressive as that may sound, Turner's stat line could have been even worse if not for a 15-yard run on his final carry of the game.
Prior to that 15-yard burst, Turner's longest carry of the season had gone for only 11 yards. In fact, Turner has managed only five carries of five yards or more in his first two games. He's also collected five rushes of no gain or negative yardage during that span.
Turner's awful game wasn't even the worst thing that has happened to him this week. Early Tuesday morning, the star running back was pulled over by a Gwinnett County cop after the officer clocked Turner's Audi R8 going at 97 miles an hour. After Turner failed a sobriety test, he was taken to jail where he was eventually released on $2,179 bail.
Not a great day at the office for Turner. I'm no karma expert but I'm thinking a DUI arrest probably isn't what Turner needed right now as he tries to get his season back on track.
Turner's rapid decline has raised all kinds of questions but maybe it's not as complicated as we all think it is.
We all know star running backs don't last forever. LaDainian Tomlinson and Barry Sanders both retired in their early 30s. Shaun Alexander and Clinton Portis didn't even make it that far. Both of them hung it up before their 30th birthdays.
Turner has been in the league for nine seasons now and his next carry will be the 1,446th of his career. Even for a big guy like Turner that's a lot of mileage.
At this point last season, Turner had already registered 214 rushing yards on 31 carries. Now Turner's future appears more uncertain than ever.
Some analysts have pointed out that Matt Ryan's emergence at quarterback could be hindering the Falcons' running game.
I disagree. Through two games, Ryan has averaged 33.5 passes per game, a total that puts him on pace to finish the 2012 campaign with 536 passes. That's actually 30 passes fewer than the 566 throws Ryan attempted last year.
Even with Ryan chucking close to 600 passes, Turner still earned 301 carries last season. Among NFL rushers, only Jones-Drew received a heavier workload in 2011.
The opportunities are still there. Turner just hasn't been taking advantage.
Because Atlanta's passing offense has been so effective this season, it's very possible that Turner could vulture a touchdown every now and then (assuming they'll always have three chances from the one-yard line), but it's clear Turner is not the fantasy stalwart that he used to be.
If you still own Turner (I'm ashamed to admit I still do in one of my leagues), I say give him one more chance to prove his worth Week 3 against the Panthers. And if he can't get the job done, cut him loose. Just because Turner's career is unraveling doesn't mean your fantasy season has to.
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