FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — There’s a good reason Jason Snelling has stuck around for seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons despite starting only five games in that span.
Snelling’s value is his versatility, a strength which again became a key after the Falcons were hit with a rash of injuries this week. Fullback Bradie Ewing separated his left shoulder and was lost for the season. Running back Steven Jackson hurt his hamstring and was lost for at least one game.
Once again, it’s Snelling to the rescue.
Snelling might split time with Jacquizz Rodgers at running back and could also play fullback when Atlanta plays at Miami on Sunday. He said he’ll be ready to fill in at both positions.
“I’ve always taken pride on being able to be a guy who can do most of the things and do it when called upon and not just doing them but doing them well,” Snelling said. “I think that has helped me stay around and keep a job in this league.”
In 2009, when Michael Turner missed time with an ankle injury, Snelling set career highs with 613 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Snelling made two starts at fullback last season and helped at the position in last week’s 31-24 win over the Rams.
“I thought he did a nice job and Jason has done that in the past when we’ve had injuries at the fullback position,” said Falcons coach Mike Smith.
Rodgers was the first substitute at running back after Jackson’s injury in last week’s win over the Rams, but Snelling had Atlanta’s only rushing touchdown, an 11-yard run. Snelling added a key 22-yard reception late in the game.
Rodgers might be the starter at running back against the Dolphins but he’s expecting help from Snelling.
Snelling, 29, might start at fullback if the Falcons open with a two-back set.
“It’s a show-me league,” Snelling said. “I feel like I have a résumé in the past I’ve been able to get the job done when I’ve been called upon. I know my coaches and teammates have confidence in me as well as Jacquizz to come in and perform, because we need it.”
Antone Smith, known for his special teams play, is the third option at running back.
“Those guys all have their different strengths and weaknesses,” said Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. “None of them are the same as Steven but they all have something to offer. I thought Jason and Jacquizz stepped up when Steven went out after seven plays. I thought those guys stepped up in a big way, Jason at tailback and fullback. I expect they’ll do the same this week.”
Tight end Tony Gonzalez said the Falcons already proved they can win without Jackson at running back.
“You saw last week during the game what happened,” Gonzalez said. “Steven went out early. Those guys came in and I think they filled in nicely. The game is not too big for them. They’ve been through this before, especially a guy like Snelling who has been around for a while.”
The Falcons lost two other starters this week. Defensive end Kroy Biermann (torn Achilles) also is lost for the season. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot) will miss two months.
The team may be without left tackle Sam Baker (knee, foot) and cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh).
The Falcons signed fullback Patrick DiMarco from their practice squad this week. He played in five games with four starts with Kansas City last year.