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Steven Jackson's numbers tell the story
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
AIMING HIGH • The running back exceeded by far his projection of 2,000 yards from scrimmage.
BACKING IT UP • Rams coach Scott Linehan praises a 'commitment to having a great year.'
Steven Jackson kept his promise.
Earlier in the year, the Rams running back disclosed that he'd set two personal-yardage targets for this third NFL season. He wouldn't divulge them then, but he pledged to at the end of the year.
After Sunday's 41-21 win at Minnesota, Jackson revealed that those numbers were 2,000 and 1,600 — as in 2,000 total yards from scrimmage and 1,600 yards rushing.
"You shoot for the moon, and you never know what will happen," Jackson said. "I just came up a little shy."
With a strong push — 545 yards in the last three games, all Rams victories — Jackson surged ahead of San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and wound up No. 1 in the NFL in yards from scrimmage. Jackson finished with 2,334 yards to Tomlinson's 2,323.
Jackson's 1,528 rushing yards ranked him fifth in the league; Tomlinson was the leader, with 1,815.
Although Jackson didn't come close to matching Tomlinson's record-breaking touchdown total (31), he did score seven times in the final three games and wound up with 16 TDs. Only Tomlinson and Kansas City running back Larry Johnson (19) found the end zone more often.
"Steven backed up his commitment to having a great year and has taken his game to another level," coach Scott Linehan said. "He made improvement unlike anyone else in the league, in my opinion, from where he was going into the year to where he is now."
At first glance, Jackson's preseason goals might have seemed ambitious. They required a significant upgrade over his previous highs — 1,366 total yards and 1,046 rushing yards, both achieved in 2005, his first season as the team's primary ballcarrier.
But after getting 297 touches — 254 carries and 43 catches — in '05, Jackson was called on 436 times this year, with 346 carries and 90 catches. Overall, the Rams advanced 5.4 yards every time the 6-foot-2, 231-pound Oregon State product, a first-round draft pick in 2004, had the ball in his hands.
A breakdown of Jackson's carries indicates that he consistently wore down defenses. His overall average per attempt was 4.4 yards, but he averaged nearly a yard more on carries 20 through 33 (his season high).
"It was just a matter of allowing me to be comfortable and do what I'm used to doing," Jackson said. "I knew that given the opportunity to touch the ball 20 to 25 times a game, I'd be able to (emerge), and I think I've proven so."
Jackson stressed that Linehan deserved credit for keeping his word to balance the offense. With the exception of a 15-0 loss at Carolina, the Rams remained committed to the ground game even against some of the best run defenses in the league.
The Vikings, for example, were the NFL's stingiest outfit vs. the run coming into Sunday's contest. Still, the Rams pounded away with 36 runs vs. 31 passes. Jackson rushed for 142 yards, the first back to hit triple figures vs. Minnesota in 28 games.
"It shows a lot about (Linehan's) character; he stands to his word," Jackson said. "It makes me want to play hard for a guy like that. Even when you're banged up, you want to go out there and give it your all."
All in all, 2006 marked a breakout year for Jackson, who stepped smartly out of Marshall Faulk's shadow and into a Pro Bowl berth. Jackson was one of three NFC running backs selected for the all-star game Feb. 10 in Honolulu.
Jackson isn't done making promises, by the way.
"There's more to come ... I'm only 23," he assured. "This is something to build off. I've set the bar pretty high for myself coming back next year. But it's a challenge I'm looking forward to."
Re: Steven Jackson's numbers tell the story
If Jackson is the first to hit Triple Digits against the Vikings who didnt allowed that in the past 28 games, That would make any HB more confident, I cant wait till next year to see Jackson run over everyone! Good Job Jackson! Next year, you will get 1600 Rushing yards!