Jackson sets sights on 2,500 total yards
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Friday, Jun. 08 2007
First, he took Marshall Faulk's job. Now, Rams running back Steven Jackson is
going after Faulk's records.
"My goal is 2,500 total yards from scrimmage," Jackson said Thursday. "And how
I get it doesn't matter. But I want to get to that number."
If he does, Jackson would replace Faulk as the NFL's single-season
record-holder. Faulk piled up 2,429 yards in 1999 — 1,381 rushing, 1,048
receiving — a season that culminated with a Rams Super Bowl championship.
Only Faulk, Tiki Barber (2,390 in 2005), LaDainian Tomlinson (2,370 in 2003),
and Barry Sanders (2,358 in 1997) have topped the 2,334 yards that Jackson
amassed last year.
"Some people may feel that I'm reaching," Jackson said of shooting for 2,500.
"But I believe goals are to be set, and then you just go after them."
Jackson fell slightly short of his goal of 1,600 rushing yards in 2006, but he
supplemented his 1,528 yards by catching 90 passes for 806 yards. The breakout
season earned Jackson a Pro Bowl selection in just his third year after the
Rams drafted him in the first round
(No. 24 overall) out of Oregon State.
"Once Marshall was unable to play last year, I thought Steven took full
advantage of the added opportunity and showed everybody why he was a No. 1
draft pick," coach Scott Linehan said. "He proved a lot to a lot more people
than just his coaches and teammates. He's one of those guys that teams have to
try to find a way to stop."
Although his numbers had been declining, Faulk remained the Rams' primary back
when Jackson arrived. Their relationship was cordial, if not overly friendly.
Jackson bided his time edgily.
"For quite a long time, I kept pleading my case, saying that I believe in my
own capabilities," he said. "I thought since Day 1 I could be a top back in
this league. I felt last year was the first time I had that chance to ... state
Jackson, who will turn 24 next month, rushed for 673 yards and had 19
receptions for 189 yards as a rookie. Faulk, who had cemented his Hall of Fame
credentials, ran for 774 yards and added 30 catches for 310 yards. But signs of
wear were obvious as his 12th NFL season wound down.
In February 2005, coach Mike Martz announced that Jackson and Faulk would swap
assignments. That season, Jackson gained 1,046 yards on the ground and 320
through the air, but the Rams slumped to 5-11. Martz was fired after the season
and Linehan brought an offensive system that stressed more balance between the
run and the pass.
With Faulk sidelined all year with a knee injury, Jackson flourished, firmly
establishing himself as one of the NFL's elite backs. He led the league in
total offense and catches by a running back; he finished fifth in rushing.
The 6-foot-2, 231-pound Jackson was particularly proud of his 436 carries and
catches combined. Only Kansas City's Larry Johnson had more, with 457. The
Rams, however, would like to lessen Jackson's workload a bit, which is partly
why they drafted Rutgers running back Brian Leonard in the second round this
"We've just got to be able to manage how much (Jackson) plays," Linehan said.
"I don't know if it's exactly like a pitch count in baseball, but there's got
to be times when we give him a break. ... It's hard to take one of your best
players out of a game ever. But you have to in football."
Jackson understands, to a degree.
"My philosophy is, to be considered great in the National Football League you
have to be the marquee guy, you have to shoulder the burden of the running
game," he said. "This is a business, and as an organization, we do have to have
guys to be ready to come in and play and protect ourselves as an offensive unit
and as a team. ...
"But me, I cherish the moments when I can put myself in tough situations and
come out on top."
Those opportunities figure to continue for Jackson, especially with Faulk out
of the picture for good after announcing his retirement earlier this year.
"It definitely makes life easier," Jackson said. "You can never downplay what
he accomplished with this franchise. But now, the question of, 'Are you good
enough?' ... I think I've answered that."