Jacquizz Rodgers will not be forgotten in the 2013 Atlanta Falcons offense. Despite being a 5'6", 196-pound running back, he's considered the second-best player in the backfield behind the newly signed Steven Jackson.
Jacquizz will have to be utilized in creative ways to keep his impact within the offense. His abilities aren't just as a runner or receiver. He can block, return and is an asset on special teams as well. Rodgers will earn his roster spot and playing time based on his successes in multiple facets of the game.
A less traditional role than a standard third-down back is what should be expected. But he also will have to be brought in on special teams and unique packages. Rodgers can be used as a three-down back and compliment to Jackson in many ways.
Head coach Mike Smith considers him a three-down back
Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith has considered Jacquizz Rodgers a three-down back for the past season. He was quoted by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year during the preseason:
Quizz is someone that we feel is a three down back. He can come in a do the things that a three-down back does. He’s is not just a change of pace back.
And coach Smith is 100 percent right there. Rodgers can do all three components needed to be a true three-down back. He can block, run and he can catch. He's got the breakaway speed to score a touchdown from anywhere.
His blocking ability is great technically, and he is able to cut down guys who are way bigger and stronger than he is. Rodgers can play in all sorts of different sets and showed that he was ideal as a third-down back due to his pass-blocking abilities.
Add in rushing abilities in both zone and man blocking runs due to great vision and good balance. Then also add in receiving abilities lined up both in the backfield and out as a receiver either in the slot or out wide.
The all-around versatility on offense makes it to where Jacquizz definitely needs a role on offense. So let's explore how coach Smith and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will be able to mix Steven Jackson and Rodgers together.
Falcons bringing in Steven Jackson will mean a less traditional role
While Jacquizz Rodgers is a true three-down back, so is Steven Jackson. So the Falcons' best plan could be to have the combination of Rodgers and Jackson on the field at the same time. In a modified version of base personnel, the Falcons could benefit from both shotgun and split back sets.
The ability to have flat routes out of the backfield, run screens on either side and completely destroy a defense's ability to key on who the ball is going to or whether it's a run or a pass. When both Jackson and Rodgers are on the field, they won't know who is blocking, running or receiving.
That alone makes it a potentially dominant combination for the offense. Also, as a way to keep Jackson healthy and fresh, the Falcons can rotate out Jackson for Rodgers and not have to change the play-calling or the schemes.
Rodgers may be small, but his ability to run through guys was shown last season in the playoffs against Seattle. So while the Falcons may not have Rodgers in the same exact role, it wouldn't surprise anyone to see a split of Jackson and Rodgers reach the 300-350 carry mark this season.
Jackson should see anywhere from 225 to 250 carries, while Rodgers should see anywhere from 75-100 carries. They should both also have a ton of catches out of the backfield in third-down situations. The Falcons will have one of the most potent offenses in the NFL again because of it.
How they will emphasize his abilities on special teams
When you have Rodgers' size and speed, it makes it tough to make the roster as a pure running back. So he has to show versatility both as a returner and as a gunner on special teams to get as much playing time as possible.
As a returner last season, he had 23 returns for 592 yards and zero touchdowns. In that, there was a 77-yard return that set up a touchdown versus the Chiefs. The Falcons will be able to take better advantage of his return abilities now that he has had a full season as the starting returner.
And as a gunner, he will have the inside track for the job. He performed well there despite having just one tackle on kickoffs. The Falcons love Rodgers' versatility and will be able to maximize it this season as the backup to Jackson.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac and Rotoworld. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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