With Jackson out, Falcons’ Snelling aims to help run game


BRANCH, Ga. – He’s a quiet, low-profile personality with a playing

style to match, so it’s easy to overlook the fact that running

back Jason Snelling ranks among the longest-tenured members of the

Atlanta Falcons.



is in his seventh year in Atlanta, one of only five players who were

drafted by the team before the arrival of general manager

Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith in 2008 – the others being

Roddy White, Jonathan Babineaux, Justin Blalock and Stephen Nicholas.



around, it seems like the faces are getting younger and younger, which

means I’m getting older,” Snelling said. “It’s one of

those bittersweet things: You hate to get old but it’s an

accomplishment. It’s good to be around here and on the same team. It’s

one of those great things I can hang my hat on.”



thing that Snelling can hang his hat on is that over the years when the

Falcons’ top running back goes down, he has been ready

and able to pick up the slack. That will be the case again on Sunday

when the Falcons visit Miami without the services of injured starter

Steven Jackson (hamstring), as Snelling will split the carries with

Jacquizz Rodgers.



Sept. 19, 2010, against Arizona when Michael Turner went down during

the game, Snelling took over and rushed for 129 yards on 24 carries

and one touchdown and also had five catches for 57 yards, earning NFC

Offensive Player of the Week honors.



best season as a pro came in 2009 during Turner’s most injury-filled campaign, as he finished with 613 yards on

142 carries (4.3 per carry) and four touchdowns. In the season finale at

Tampa Bay – a game the Falcons needed to win in order to record the first

back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history — he rushed for 147

yards on 25 carries.


As a result, Snelling has shown that his value lies not just in his longevity but also in his ability to produce.



this game you always want to be relevant,” said Snelling, who has remained a useful special teams player. “The more things you can

do, the more plays you can make to keep yourself around and help your

team win. It’s a good feeling to still have involvement on this team,

especially on the offensive side of the ball, too.”



Jackson went down last week on the game’s first series, the Falcons had

little success running the ball against St. Louis. Rodgers,

who has looked tentative hitting the holes, has not produced so far this

season with just 16 yards on 13 carries.


In their first two games, the Falcons have not run the ball well. They are tied for 26th

in the league with 124 yards – 50 of them coming on a single run by Jackson — on 30 carries.


Smith said Falcons runners need to “press the holes.”


get it going, it all starts with us,” Rodgers said. “Hit the first thing we

see. That will help a lot and then it will help things going

down the line later on in case we try to make some moves and get into

the open field.”



noted that against St. Louis the Falcons also faced eight defenders in

the box, which Smith said they did not do a very good job

of blocking. Smith said that is partly the fault of the wide receivers.

Perhaps the Falcons’ best blocking wide receiver is Roddy White but he

continues to be limited in his playing time by a high-ankle sprain,

which also could impact his effectiveness blocking.

White played 34 plays (53 percent) last week.


“So I don’t think it’s one person,” Smith said. “I think it’s the entire group.”


quarterback Matt Ryan: “Again, it’s one of those things we’ve got to be

on top of mentally, we’ve got to identify things correctly.

I’ve got to get us into the right plays to go against certain looks that

will help us out and I think collectively we’ve all got to do a little

better job.”



the final two preseason games, the Falcons looked like they would have

success with Jackson running the ball. Now they need to

show that they can have success with someone else getting the carries.

The fact that Snelling has a track record of success should breathe some

confidence into his coaches and teammates.



think so,” Snelling said of his past success. “In this game, everything

is what you put on tape and what you show. It’s a show-me league.

I felt like I have a resume in the past that I’ve been able to get the

job done when I’ve been called upon. I know my teammates, coaches have

confidence in me, as well as Jacquizz, to come in, step in and perform

as they need us to.”