FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - MAY 9: Running backs coach Gerald Brown talks with backs Verron Haynes #36, Jerious Norwood #32, Thomas Brown #27 and Ovie Mughelli during minicamp at the Falcons Complex on May 9, 2009 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (Paul Abell/Getty Images)
Coming into Dallas, the Atlanta Falcons are averaging 98.6 yards on the ground per game--not awful, but not good. The only Cowboys opponent thus far this season with a lower average, in fact, is the Kansas City Chiefs, who are averaging 98 YPG on the ground.
Mike Mularkey's unit is certainly not in crisis mode, with Matt Ryan growing increasingly comfortable with the offense; but the running game--a facet that is typically crucial to Mularkey's smashmouth-approach--has fallen noticeably short of expectations. Michael Turner's 353 yards are good enough to land him 15th among NFL backs in this regard, but his average of 3.5 yards per carry is worse than that of any of the Cowboys three runners.
What's more, the situation has gotten worse since the Bears game, in which Turner proved mostly lackluster. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that Jerious Norwood, who was hurt against the Bears, will likely miss the Dallas game with a hip flexor injury.
Fullback Ovie Mughelli is also doubtful; he missed Thursday's practice with the calf injury that forced him out of action against Chicago. With just three healthy running backs, the team released former Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley this week, in order to sign former Florida State standout Antone Smith to the practice squad.
Atlanta is ranked 24th in the NFL in rushing offense, just a year after they were the second best rushing team in the league.