Turner has high ankle sprain; Ryan, Norwood and Snelling must step up

Jay Glazer of FOXSports.com reports that Michael Turner has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, although the Falcons are apparently “very optimistic” that the injury won’t keep their star back out too long.

High ankle sprains can sideline players for as little as 2-3 weeks or as long as six months depending on the severity of the injury. In Turner’s case, it sounds like he’ll only be out a couple of weeks but who knows at this point. The Falcons will be fighting for a playoff spot the rest of the season, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Turner came back earlier than expected.

Atlanta has two capable backs in Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling, although the former can never stay healthy. Norwood has battled concussions and a hip injury for much of the season and hasn’t spent a lot of time on the field.

When healthy, Norwood is a lighting rod and a threat to score every time he gets his hands on the ball, while Snelling looked good on Sunday in the team’s loss to the Panthers. He’s kind of a poor man’s Turner in that he’s a load to bring down, but he has surprising quickness and is a good receiver out of the backfield.

The Falcons could certainly do worse than a combination of Snelling and Norwood – much worse. But the problem is that if Norwood can’t stay healthy, Snelling isn’t the same back as Turner is. He’s more than serviceable, but he’s never been counted on to carry the full load, so Norwood has to recover quickly or else the Falcons’ season could slip away in a hurry.

Of course, Matt Ryan could also help the situation by playing much better than he has. When Turner was struggling at the beginning of the season and the Falcons’ running game was non-existent, Ryan carried the team. But he hasn’t played well in over a month and his performance in Carolina yesterday might have been an indication that he has regressed as a passer. All of a sudden, Ryan has turned into an inaccurate quarterback that makes poor decisions and often bails out of plays (which are all things he never did as a rookie).

If Turner is out for an extended period of time, the Falcons need all three players – Norwood, Snelling and Ryan – to step up and produce or else a second half collapse is imminent. Their defense is young and improving, but it can’t carry Atlanta to a postseason berth on its own. (Especially considering how bad the Panthers tore them up yesterday.)

It’s time for Ryan, Norwood and Snelling to step up.

Let’s put Snelling’s performance on Sunday into perspective. Before he left the game, Turner had run for 111 yards on nine carries for a 12.3 ypc. Snelling took over and rushed for 61 yards on 18 carries (3.4 ypc) and a TD. This was against the league’s 25th-ranked rush defense. Snelling is no Michael Turner, but if Jerious Norwood remains sidelined, he’s a guy capable of filling in for a few weeks, both for the Falcons and for your fantasy team. The good news is that he’s a decent receiver (3-32), an area of the game in which Turner does not excel (or isn’t given the opportunity to excel). Other options at RB are LeSean McCoy, Ladell Betts, Justin Forsett and Sammy Morris. Be sure to check back for our Waiver Wire Watch tomorrow morning for rankings of these potential fantasy free agents.

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