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Steven Jackson and the Most Underrated Player at Every Position
By Cody Nielsen
Every football team in the country has one or more players who is under-appreciated or underrated. This is particularly true at the professional level.
Be it the fans of the team a player competes for, fans around the country, or NFL analysts, some players don't get the recognition they deserve. Others, for whatever reason (usually due to bigger media markets) become overrated (I'm talking to you, Mark Sanchez).
Here are the List of players:
QB-Matt Shaub - Texans
RB-Steven Jackson - RAMS
FB-Le'rom McClain - Cheifs
WR-Miles Aystin - Cowboys
TE-Chris Cooley - Redskins
C-Jamaal Jackson - Eagles
G-Harvey Dahl - RAMS
OT-Rodger Saffold - RAMS
DE-Chris Long - RAMS
DT-Haloti Ngata - Ravens
LB-James Laurinitis - RAMS
CB-Ike Taylor - Steelers
S-Antoine Bethea - Colts
Here is what he had to say about each one:
Kent Nishimura/Getty Images
From the moment he entered the NFL Draft in 2004, Steven Jackson has struggled to get the recognition he deserves.
Rated as the top running back in the draft after an excellent career at Oregon State, Jackson was projected to be drafted in the top 10. Team after team passed on him however, until the St. Louis Rams, looking to find a future replacement for Marshall Faulk, traded up to the no. 24 pick to select the big bruiser.
Since that pick, Jackson has amassed nearly 8,000 rushing yards (in only six seasons as the starter) with 47 rushing touchdowns to go along with over 2,500 yards receiving and seven receiving touchdowns.
Those are good numbers no matter how you look at it, but when you factor in that Jackson has played on some of the worst teams of the past decade while facing eight men in the box the majority of the time, those are GREAT numbers.
Even when he led the league in yards from scrimmage in 2006, people who weren't fans of the Rams continually said that he didn't deserve to be in the conversation as one of the top five backs in the league. They're wrong.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Harvey Dahl was one of the more under-the-radar free agent signings during the frenzy that occurred after the lockout was lifted.
Dahl was a solid guard with the Atlanta Falcons. The nastiness factor that he brings to the Rams offensive line is what makes him underrated, something that has been severely lacking in St. Louis over the last couple of seasons.
Dahl was ranked as the eighth dirtiest player in the NFL as recently as two seasons ago. When quarterback Sam Bradford was told this, he said they would do what they could to move him up to No. 1. It's like my dad used to say, if you're gonna do something, be the best at it.
The new attitude has already started to rub off on the rest of the line as even guard Jacob Bell has played with a renewed passion for his job over the first three preseason games.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
With the selection of Sam Bradford with the No. 1 overall pick last season, not many people payed attention to the player selected with the Rams second round pick, offensive tackle Rodger Saffold.
It was expected that Saffold would be the Rams right tackle of the future, but due to an excellent showing in camp and tackle Jason Smith's struggles to adequately protect Sam Bradford's blind side, the Rams opened the season with Saffold as the starting left tackle. He didn't disappoint, allowing 3.5 sacks and garnering eight penalties in 16 games started. These would be excellent numbers on any team, especially a team that struggled with coverage sacks last season. As a unit, the Rams' offensive line allowed 34 sacks in 2010. Saffold effectively allowed 10% of the team's total sacks. Not bad for a rookie.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Chris Long, son of Raiders legend Howie Long, makes this list due to his low sack totals. On a vastly underrated defense (they ranked middle of the pack in most defensive statistics, but their points allowed was almost top 10), Long was double teamed a majority of the time. With his non-stop motor, he led the league in quarterback hurries and pressures, and with a little bit of work he won't remain underrated for long.
Expect his sack totals to be in the double digits this season. With James Hall lining up on the other side, pass rush specialist Robert Quinn joining the team this season and Steve Spagnuolo's blitz schemes, the Rams will once again be a top 10 defense in sacks (last season they ranked seventh, five sacks behind the vaunted Steelers defense).
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Son of WWE legend "Animal" of the Road Warriors, "Little Animal" as he is affectionately known in St. Louis, is another under the radar draft pick by the Rams. Laurinaitis has averaged 117 tackles since being picked by the Rams in the second round in 2009 while receiving little to no support from the outside linebackers that the Rams have put around him.
The fact that he gets no press can be attributed to several factors. For one, he played on a team that is just now becoming relevant in the NFL once again. Playing in the same division as Patrick Willis doesn't help his case for accolades either. This year, with starting quality outside linebackers next to him, Laurinaitis will finally get the respect that he deserves.
Pretty nice them getting some recognition.
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