Falcons' running game has room to improve

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 10, 2013 at 7:39 pm •  Published: August 10, 2013
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons signed running back Steven Jackson to a three-year, $12 million contract to firm up a soft spot in their offense.

After their preseason opener, questions remain about the running game.

Jackson, who was a free agent after rushing for at least 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons with the Rams, had five carries for 8 yards in a 34-10 loss to the Bengals on Thursday.

The Falcons, who ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing last season (87.3 yards per game), had just 92 yards rushing overall.

That may have had more to do with Atlanta's offensive line than Jackson. He and the Falcons' top skill position players did not play much in the game.

Center Peter Konz, a second-year pro replacing retired 13-year veteran Todd McClure, played the first 14 snaps. Tackles Lamar Holmes and Ryan Schraeder played much more just days after projected right tackle starter Michael Johnson suffered a season-ending leg injury.

Left guard Justin Blalock, a seven-year veteran, said it wouldn't be right to expect Atlanta's new line combination to be immediately comfortable. Konz finished last season at right guard.

"We kind of leaned on him for a lot of things," Blalock said of McClure. "It was a little weird being out there without him, but the more we practice the more this group bonds."

Another factor is that the Bengals have one of the top defensive lines in the NFL with Geno Atkins, Robert Geathers and Domata Peko.

The Falcons' first possession stalled in the red zone. On third-and-2 from the Cincinnati 16, Atkins dropped Jackson for a 3-yard loss to force a Matt Bryant field goal.

The Falcons released right tackle Tyson Clabo in the offseason in a cost-cutting move, and Johnson was expected to start there. Last week, he dislocated his left ankle and fractured his fibula.