Steven Jackson will be featured in Falcons' air attack


Our esteemed Around The League colleague, Dan Hanzus, heard it from readers after he ranked 26 NFL running backs ahead of veteran Steven Jackson.

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The Atlanta Falcons are more optimistic.

On the heels of signing Jackson to a three-year, $12 million contract in March, Falcons coach Mike Smith on Wednesday talked about the 29-year-old as a potential pass-catching threat out of the backfield.

"He's a big, strong running back that catches the ball extremely well," Smith said, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He creates issues for defenses. He's just another weapon that we have in our offensive arsenal. He's a guy who had close to 100 catches in a season, so he's a guy that we can use in the passing game. He's not just a running back, he's a receiving back as well."

The Falcons never had that option with Michael Turner, who caught a measly 59 passes during his five seasons in Atlanta. Jackson has averaged 45 catches per year dating to 2004.

The caution here is Jacquizz Rodgers, the Falcons' versatile runner who figures to see plenty of action on passing downs. Still, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter repeatedly has talked about using more screen passes to chip away at defenses, and that bodes well for Jackson in this high-octane attack.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.