Jackson ready to take over for a legend

Jay Glazer / FOXSports.com
Posted: 4 hours ago

The following is the fourth installment of the Annual Jay Glazer Cross Country Training Camp Extravaganza, with the latest stop at Rams camp. And apologies to our loyal readers who have valiantly awaited my camp-by-camp tour journals.

So I've taken to the road for 30 days in search of the next scoop, inside slant and the best and worst kept secrets in towns like Kankakee, Ill.; Spartanburg, S.C.; and River Falls, Wisc. Let's enjoy the ride.

ST. LOUIS The unthinkable finally happened for Rams fans. Guess it had to happen eventually. But who would have thought the transition would be so painless. After years of watching Marshall Faulk terrorize defensive game plans, 2005 became the year to pass the torch.

Steven Jackson represents a changing of the guard in St. Louis. (Elsa / Getty Images)

Enter Steven Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 231-pounder with enough speed and perseverence to garner a very solid 5 yards per rush average. The sophomore slasher has the demeanor of that real nice neighbor's kid from next door. But put him on the field and it's easy to see why the Rams had to make that move. Faulk, believe it or not, actually led the way to his own exodus.

"It was never an awkward moment," Jackson said of when he found out he was replacing the living Rams legend in the starting lineup. "He was actually the first guy to congratulate me. I lean on him for friendship, plus I have help from someone who has seen so much because he's played in this league for x amount of years."

The fact that Faulk agreed to step aside for the youngster without making a big stink was huge for Mike Martz's squad. It could have been contentious. Actually, it could have been a lot worse than contentious. Instead, the Rams now head into a season with a legitimate bruising back who can churn up yardage and put more balance into what had been a predominantly passing attack.

"You stand next to him he looks more like a tight end," said Rams veteran blocker Tom Nutten. "He doesn't have an ounce of fat on him and he runs hard. He's not afraid to take the hit. He'll make some tacklers take some hard shots. He's also a very smart player. He already understands this offense, which made them comfortable giving him the starting job."

Plus, Faulk now gets to stay healthier and pick and choose his spots to contribute. Martz says the two can also be used in the backfield together to confuse defenses even more. Jackson's ascent is much faster than he probably knew when he was tabbed in last year's draft. It's never easy for a youngster to agree to come in and hope to one day dethrone a city icon much less a perennial MVP contender. Some inside the organization say he never really knew what to expect of the situation but Martz always told him to be ready because his day will come sooner than he thinks.

"I actually found out about the move by watching the TV," said Jackson. "I was happy when I saw it but I wasn't told privately at first."

Knowing that his massive shoulders will now be called upon to carry the offense, Jackson no longer sounds like a wide-eyed rookie who doesn't know what to expect. The team needs him to bolster the offense and Jackson sounds ready for the task.

"It's our generation, time for some new backs to come in," he said. "I'm a very hard worker and hard work makes things happen and that's how you can get people to gravitate toward you on a team environment. I have all the characteristics of a leader but I don't go out of my way to be one."

KEEP AND EYE ON: DE Tony Hargrove. The second-year defensive end has already become a Martz favorite. Consider that he has been touted as having the best pass rush potential on the team.

"He's distinguished himself so far in practice as being on par with Leonard (Little)," said Martz. "We're excited about his potential."

Not only does Martz love him, he's also opened some eyes of teammates and given the offensive line fits.

"I think potentially he could be one of the best defensive ends in this league," boasted Pro Bowl LT Orlando Pace, the man who works every day against Hargrove in practice. "We're going to make each other better."

Still, it remains to be seen if he's big enough to play every down and translate the damage he's doing in practice to Sunday afternoons.

HOW ABOUT THIS ONE? Going to the Rams complex was a wonderful surprise for me simply for the fact that they have a Harrah's Casino within two miles of the complex. Nothing like playing craps in the middle of the day. (I mean, I was doing interviews all day, boss. Yeah, yup, entrenched in Rams scoopage.) This was the second time in as many months that I've been to a Missouri Harrah's and the last time my girl blew the biggest chance we'll ever have.

I gave my girl $100 to go play the slots only to have her run over to me all excited because she hit for $702. Awesome ... until reality set it.

"Baby, what did you hit to get that 700 bucks?"

"I got three Tabasco Sauce bottles."

"Hon, that's the freakin' jackpot, how many quarters did you play?"

"One, I wanted the hundred dollars to last longer."

"URHGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Just to let you folks know, that was the jackpot on the progressive slots. Had she played five quarters, I don't remember if the payout was actually for six or seven figures. But hey, glad that hondo lasted you a long time sweetheart.