Jackson Prepares to Carry Load
Thursday, September 7, 2006
By Nick Wagoner
As Steven Jackson prepares to embark on his third NFL season, the expectations for his performance have only grown.
Soon after the hiring of coach Scott Linehan, he made it clear that Jackson was going to be a key cog in his offense. Linehan wanted a more balanced attack for a team that had relied on the passing game for most of its offense in previous seasons.
That was music to Jackson’s ears after he spent parts of last season asking for more touches. Even with the additional burden placed on him, Jackson isn’t worried about the implications.
“There’s no pressure,” Jackson said. “We are making a big deal out of nothing. I was a 1,000-yard back; I’m going to continue to be a 1,000-yard back. I know the things we are going to continue to do up front are key. There’s no pressure, I don’t feel any pressure.”
The Rams’ renewed commitment to the running game puts the onus squarely on Jackson’s shoulders to perform. While Jackson led the team in rushing in 2005 when he posted 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns on 254 carries, he also led the league in carries for negative yards.
Jackson’s ability to get the ball up the field is one area that should improve in 2006. Linehan has installed a running game that has Jackson running north and south more than many of the plays that had him going east and west last season.
That type of running game should appeal more to Jackson’s ability to lower his shoulders and hit the hole.
“I’m not a guy that can make 11 guys miss,” Jackson said. “There’s only one guy that did that and that’s Barry Sanders. That’s not what I do. What I do is control the ball game and I move the chains.”
Jackson will face a tough challenge right off the bat. While it’s the Broncos running game that gets all of the attention, their run defense is nothing to sneeze at. Denver finished second against the run last season, allowing just 85.2 yards a game.
That defense is led by one of the fastest and most athletic linebacking crews in the NFL. Middle linebacker Al Wilson and outside ‘backers D.J. Williams and Ian Gold cover the field sideline to sideline, making it difficult for running backs to get past the second level.
“We just have to run at them,” Jackson said. “We can’t run side to side and expect them to overrun things. I think we have to try to run action and get them to bite on some runs and capitalize on the chances we get.”
Jackson had an up and down preseason. In the first preseason game against Indianapolis, Jackson carried five times for 41 yards with a long gain of 23. Against Houston and Kansas City, Jackson struggled some as there were few holes available. He carried a total of 14 times for 32 yards, just over 2 yards per attempt.
If Jackson wants to join the league’s elite, he knows he has to find the kind of consistency his coaches are looking for.
“I am very confident,” Jackson said. “I am a confident person. The confidence is going to be there. All I have to do is show my O line that I’m going to work and run hard and we’ll feed off each other.”
Even with the addition of Stephen Davis, Jackson isn’t worried about his status. For him, it’s a matter of staying healthy. He was able to do that through the preseason with a slight blip in the form of tendonitis in his heel.
Regardless of any mitigating factors, Jackson is ready to show the world he can be the back many believe he can be.
“You guys (the media) won’t let me slack up so I don’t need Stephen Davis to push me,” Jackson said. “As a rookie I came in backing up a great guy and I don’t think his being picked up will push me to do anything I haven’t been doing already.
“I think it’s a key challenge for me personally. We are facing the defense that was in the AFC championship last year with some Pro Bowlers. So I get my measuring stick right away.”
RAM BITS: The Rams’ injury report remained clean for the second straight day with defensive end Anthony Hargrove and Jamal Brooks participating in everything. Hargrove didn’t even need the red jersey Thursday as he is fully recovered from the infection in his elbow…Linehan named J.R. Reed and Shaun McDonald as his kick and punt returners officially on Thursday, but left the door open for Kevin Curtis to get reps as a kick returner should the situation arise…The Rams expressed interest in former Giants returner Willie Ponder before signing Reed. Ponder signed with Seattle earlier in the week…Denver enters the weekend fairly healthy as well with defensive end Courtney Brown the only potentially serious injury. Brown is questionable with a knee injury.
Re: Jackson Prepares to Carry Load
Interesting we looked at Ponder. He did a nice job as a returner for the Giants last year. Let's hope Reed does well.
Oh how I miss Tony Horne.
Re: Jackson Prepares to Carry Load
We need a big game and a big season from jacson if we are going to do well this year I hope the OL works well