Thursday, September 22, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
As Steven Jackson crossed the Arizona goal line for his first touchdown of the season last week, he immediately dropped the ball and went for a roll of the dice.
“Yea, that’s my signature now,” Jackson said. “That’s the first time. I did it once in the preseason, but that is something I started doing this year.”
There was no better time for the Rams to roll the dice on Jackson than this year, giving him every opportunity to earn his keep as the team’s starting running back.
Although Jackson said he doesn’t play too much craps, he hopes to roll the dice in the end zone plenty of times this year. Jackson’s new signature celebration is, of course, an ode to his hometown.
“Vegas, baby,” Jackson said.
Jackson earned the team’s Offensive Player of the Week award after rushing for 93 yards on 18 carries with the touchdown. In his first year as the starter, Jackson has run for 153 yards on 37 carries.
Although Jackson might prefer to get more carries than he has, that still averages out to 18.5 carries a game, a pace that would put him at 296 carries for the season. That is a pretty big workload for any back and would give Jackson plenty of opportunity to prove himself.
Jackson’s teammates are fine with the idea of Jackson getting a lot of touches.
“I’m the biggest fan [of running the ball],” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “If we can keep running, that would be great. It takes so much pressure off of the passing game, and toward the end of the game, if we have the lead, we can use some of the clock.”
That is the exact task that Jackson was faced with last week. After not getting any touches on a pair of late-game possessions, the Rams turned the game over to the second-year running back with about seven minutes to play.
Jackson picked up a first down in two carries to start the possession, but lost 2 yards on his next carry before St. Louis threw twice and fell short of the first down. When the Rams got the ball back nursing a 17-12 lead with 3:02 to play, they decided to go back to Jackson. But he was held to 2 yards on two carries before the Rams had to throw short. St. Louis punted, setting up Arizona’s final drive.
It’s the instinct to finish games that made Marshall Faulk so successful as Jackson’s predecessor. Whenever the Rams of a few years ago would get ahead, they could hand it to Faulk who would essentially run the clock out.
That’s something that is still a work in progress for Jackson.
“The biggest thing you want to do in this league, when you have a lead, is get into your four-minute offense, make sure you’re running the ball and just chew up as much clock as you can,” receiver Isaac Bruce said. “If we have to put our defense back on the field, then make sure that the offense has the least amount of time and we can just go out and seal the deal.”
BRUCE ANTI-VOLS: Isaac Bruce played his college football at Memphis, so it isn’t like he was a big fan of the Tennessee Volunteers growing up, but his reason for rooting against them runs deeper than any rivalry the Tiger and Volunteers might have had.
Bruce believes that anytime Tennessee loses it improves the performance of one of his teammates.
“Leonard (Little) is really stepping up his game,” Bruce said. “I think Leonard was kind of upset with Tennessee losing to Florida last week, so he went out and had a great game. So, anytime Tennessee is losing, that’s beneficial to us, so hopefully the Tigers down in Baton Rouge can take care of business this weekend…And the Memphis Tigers.”
HOT GREASE: Defensive tackle Ryan “Big Grease” Pickett was originally credited with a pair of sacks against the Cardinals on Sunday, but after a review from the Elias Stats Bureau, Pickett’s numbers were diminished.
Pickett claimed Thursday that the stats bureau was out to get him. Of course, Pickett was only joking (we think), but it is extremely difficult for a defensive tackle such as Pickett to get two sacks in any game.
“Coach (Bill) Kollar said it should have been one (a sack),” Pickett said. “They put it down as a team sack so they robbed me and then they gave half (of the other one) to Leonard. I need to talk to them (Elias).”
Although the always upbeat Pickett was slightly disappointed about losing a sack and a half in a matter of days, he is excited about his first opportunity to play in front of the home crowd at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday.
“The place will be pumped up and you just feel like you have the 13th man out there,” Pickett said. “That helps out a lot.”
Uh, Grease, don’t you mean the 12th man?
“(It’s like having) two extra, yeah 13,” Pickett said, laughing.
INJURY REPORT: The Rams’ injury report remained the same Thursday with offensive tackle Rex Tucker out with a calf injury and cornerback Terry Fair questionable with a neck injury.
Tennessee’s lengthy injury report also remained the same with every player listed missing at least a portion of the team’s Thursday practice.
Safety Vincent Fuller, who doubled as the team’s nickelback, is out with an ankle injury. Receivers Drew Bennett (foot) and Courtney Roby (toe), running back Chris Brown (concussion), defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (knee), safety Justin Sandy (foot) and linebacker Peter Sirmon (knee) are questionable.