It seems like every season there is a "RB controversy" in Atlanta, ever since Reeves brought both Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett to town. In their initial seasons, the sentiment was that Dunn was Blank's guy, and Duckett was Reeves guy. When Reeves was fired, the future didn't look bright for Duckett, especially when the team drafted Quincy Wilson in Round 6, a guy that filled the same niche as Duckett.
Well Wilson didn't quite pan out, and Duckett had his finest season as a Falcon. But does that end the controversy? Nope, not even close.
Now it seems the writing is on the wall that Dunn is on his way out, with the selection of DeAndra Cobb and picking up T.A. McLendon in free agency. Both are 3rd down backs that fit Dunn's niche more than Duckett.
Does that mean that McKay believes that this is likely Dunn's last season? Or is the opposite in that the team feels that Duckett's niche is not that important, and the team feels Cobb/McLendon having brighter futures as the feature back?
Well, if the salary cap was the only factor, it would clearly point to this being Dunn's last year. Duckett's cap status is quite manageable for a starting running back, but Dunn's is not considering in a great year he's still not going to touch the ball on average more than 18 times per game.
So does this mean Duckett is poised to have more work this year? We all saw how the team practically refused to use Duckett early on last year. But he came on during midseason to the point that it seemed like the pair were very close to splitting actual time (a 3:2 ration between Weeks 10-14).
We really don't know what's on the mind of Greg Knapp. He's been masterful at utilizing 2 RBs. In San Fran, it was Hearst and Barlow, getting the best out of both players. Now it's Dunn and Duckett, and considering our rushing offensive rank last year, you could make the same argument.
I will happily admit that I was blatantly anti-Duckett up until around midseason of this past year. I thought he was too fat, too slow, and too timid to be a real-time NFL feature back. My mind is changing. I do think he still needs to lose weight, and if he wants to be a real NFL player needs to learn how to block better, but I'm starting to believe now that he could be the "pace setter" in this offense in future years.
But it really comes down to this year. After the season, the Falcons have to make a decision. Cut Dunn? Trade Duckett? Keep both? If Duckett plays like a potential 20-carry back, then it's Option A. If Duckett doesn't step up, the Falcons are better off trying to get some value for him with Option B. And if anything else happens, then well it's probably Option C.
I'm really excited about this season. I can't wait to see what improvements this offense does/does not make this year. I really expect a slight dropoff this year in terms of our defense, so I think in order to have great success in 2005, it's going to be up to our offense to pick up the slack. And of course that relies on DVD, particualrly the Double Ds.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.