NFC South: 4 things to glean in free agency

March 16, 2013

Here are four things to glean from the NFC South clubs, less than one full week into NFL free agency.

1. Sorry, Falcons fans, but the 2013 season won't start with Atlanta holding a 10-point halftime lead in the NFC championship

Listening to Atlanta radio every day, I've lost count of the number of times Falcons fans have attributed the title-game defeat to running back Michael Turner, as if the bruising back didn't do enough to protect a 17-0 lead (over the 49ers) and secure the franchise's second Super Bowl berth.

Never mind that Turner sustained an ankle injury in the third quarter and had to begrudgingly pass the rushing torch to Jacquizz Rodgers. For an emotional fan base that views the Falcons' "championship window" as closing (or even closed), swapping Turner for Steven Jackson seems like a major upgrade.

But let's have some perspective here:

Yes, Jackson (turns 30 in July) is 17 months younger than Turner, but he has logged 756 more professional carries than his counterpart. Also, Jackson notched 20 total touchdowns for the Rams from 2009-12 — a figure that was easily dwarfed by Turner (44 TDs) in that same span.

And before anyone argues Turner alone was losing his touch as a goal-line back — citing the excruciating loss at New Orleans in November — I'll counter with this:

When the Rams played the Dolphins in Week 6, the St. Louis offense ignored Jackson for a crucial red-zone sequence from the 7-yard line during the fourth quarter ... on four straight downs.

Rams QB Sam Bradford scrambled for a few yards on first down. Next, rookie tailback Daryl Richardson carried the ball for one yard. Bradford then completed a short pass to Brian Quick. And on 4th-and-goal from the 1, with Jackson primed to tote the rock, St. Louis entrusted Bradford for a QB-keeper score.