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By Chris Vivlamore

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons needed Jason Snelling — and he needed them.

The re-signing of the running back, after he tested the free-agent market, will have ripple effects through the offense.

“That was a big pickup,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “I think I was as happy as anyone when we signed him and he got back in here.”

Snelling’s versatility was a big part of why the Falcons wanted him back. He signed a one-year deal Sunday after talking to the Chiefs, Rams and Giants.


-- For Ryan’s sake, Snelling is a welcome blocker. “He allows us to do some of the more complicated protection schemes that we’ve done because he is so good with that,” he said.

-- Snelling proved himself to be more than capable of filling in for Michael Turner. He rushed for 324 yards on 87 carries (3.7 yards per carry) and two touchdowns last season.

-- When Jerious Norwood was lost for the season, Snelling stepped in as the third-down option. He helped in the passing game with 303 yards on 44 receptions (6.9 yards per catch) and three touchdowns last season.

“I’m always ready to take on new roles,” Snelling said. “I’m kind of that guy who can fill in and play different positions. I work hard on my versatility as a player. I have to come out here and compete because one guy goes down, the nature of this business is you have to step up and increase your role.”

-- With continuity among the Falcons’ running backs, the biggest impact may come in how the team uses rookie Jacquizz Rodgers. The 5-foot-6 Rodgers was drafted in the fifth round out of Oregon State to be a change-of-pace back. The plan is to use him in much the same role the Falcons schemed for Norwood, but were never able to use.

“We envisioned Jacquizz being a change-of pace back when we drafted him,” coach Mike Smith said. “At that point in time we weren’t sure what our roster was going to look like because of the uncertainty [of the NFL lockout]. Now that we have Jason back, we feel like Jacquizz is going to take that role that we really drafted him for.

“Jacquizz is very talented. When he gets the ball, you can see that he has great vision. Running through the hole he gets his shoulders north and south, and he also creates some mismatches out on the perimeter. That’s the reason we drafted him, and we’re going to give him every opportunity in the next three or four weeks to show us what he can do.”

The Falcons will get a better chance to see what Rodgers can do Friday in the exhibition opener against the Dolphins. With the limited offseason, Rodgers will be one of the young players to get an extended look.

“Jacquizz is looking really good out here,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “I can’t really pass any judgment until I see him play. You come out here [in practice] and you try to simulate a game environment, but at the same time it isn’t live.

“He played pretty well in the scrimmage, so I’m anxious to see him. That’s what the preseason is for, for the young guys to come in and see how they perform.”

Snelling is in his fifth season with the Falcons after being drafted out of Virginia in the seventh round (No. 244 overall) in 2007. He contributed in a big way right from the start last season. Snelling won NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against the Cardinals on Sept. 19. He had a career-high 186 all-purpose yards with three touchdowns — two rushing and one receiving. He totals included 129 yards rushing on 24 carries.

“It was a great opportunity,” Snelling said of last season. “I was glad I put the extra work in so when my chance came I was ready. I know my teammates and coaches have faith in me in whatever job I’m doing. I love playing the game of football in whatever role I’m playing.”

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