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  • Multiple Options at RB

    Multiple Options at RB
    Friday, September 3, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    It might not be safe to call it an embarrassment of riches just yet, but the Rams’ depth at running back appears to be headed in that direction.

    After what coach Mike Martz called a disappointing effort running the ball last season, the emphasis has been increased. When the Rams have been at their best, they have had the best of both worlds, throwing and running the ball with equal aplomb. To prove its point, St. Louis ran the ball 45 times against Oakland on Thursday night.

    “I am very pleased with the way we have run the ball the last few weeks,” Martz said. “It didn’t make any difference who was in there. To run the football well, was a big deal to me in the offseason. We were not a productive team (last year) running the football. We have to get back to doing some of the things that are basic for this offense.”

    St. Louis has four tailbacks that got their share of repetitions in the preseason, each coming away with varying success, but also proving they have what it takes to be anywhere from solid to great in the league. The group was led by future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk.

    Faulk played in limited snaps in three of the four preseason games, but that was solely in an effort to get him the ball a few times and help his preparation for the regular season. In limited action, Faulk show the burst and pass-catching ability that has made him one of the game’s all-time greats.

    There has been, perhaps, no bigger star in the preseason for the Rams than rookie Steven Jackson. Jackson has ripped off big gains using his speed, bulled his way to first downs with his powerful burst and flashed soft hands in catching passes out of the backfield. Jackson was the team’s workhorse in each of the first three preseason games before taking on a lighter load Thursday night against Oakland. The lighter load did not equal less production, though. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Jackson carried 12 times for 72 yards, his most efficient performance.

    Jackson’s official coming-out party came against Washington in the third game, a game in which he carried 25 times for 125 yards and a touchdown. Jackson has shown what he can do physically, but still has the occasional mental lapse.
    Martz said he tried to work Jackson as much as possible in the preseason to get him ready for the regular season grind.

    “You look at Steven in that game when he got tired, mentally,” Martz said. “We did that to him on purpose. And now you get a guy that is used to carrying the load when he is exhausted.”

    Lamar Gordon missed most of the preseason after having surgery to remove bone chips in his ankle. The injury plagued Gordon since his junior year at North Dakota State. Gordon played pain-free for the first time in Thursday night’s loss to Oakland and took a major pounding after carrying 22 times for 77 yards and a touchdown.

    Gordon proved to be solid in his first few years in the league, but the possibilities for him now that he is healthy, are endless. Add to that mix RB Arlen Harris and the Rams’ immense possibilities at running back, a luxury many teams don’t have.

    Martz said he was happy with Gordon’s performance.

    “He took some horrendous hits out there on the edge,” Martz said. “I was very impressed with his toughness, the burst he had and the acceleration he showed. He hasn’t been hit at all in four weeks and that is a big deal, but the more we played him, the better he played. I was very pleased with him.”

    Harris didn’t have as many opportunities running the ball as his colleagues, but his in the do-it-all roll as fullback, running back, and kick returner.

    With the depth at the position and Martz’s commitment to get back to the running game that has been so effective in years past, the Rams’ offense could see a revival of the “Greatest Show on Turf” in 2004.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

Related Topics


  • RamDez
    Jackson lives up to his draft slot in opener of the exhibition season
    by RamDez
    Jackson lives up to his draft slot in opener of the exhibition season
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - They're not casting his bust just yet in Canton, Ohio. But there was a reason Steven Jackson was the first running back selected in the 2004 draft. And he provided some clues with a strong performance in Thursday's exhibition game against Chicago.

    Even though the Rams lost 13-10 in overtime, Jackson didn't disappoint. He carried 15 times for 73 yards, averaging 4.9 yards a carry. Throw in his four catches for 18 yards, and Jackson had 91 yards from scrimmage - the top total by any player on either team.

    "I'm extremely pleased with my effort, and the things that the offensive line created for me to do," Jackson said.

    Nineteen "touches" - the 15 carries, plus the four catches - is a substantial workload for anybody during the preseason when rosters are bloated with third- and fourth-stringers.

    "I kind of looked forward to it," Jackson said. "I knew Marshall (Faulk) wasn't going to go. Lamar (Gordon) is down right now, so I kind of knew I was going to be taking a heavy load.

    "I know that I had a couple miscues that I need to clean up. For the most part I felt pretty comfortable, and more relaxed than I have the whole camp."

    Jackson might have approached 100 yards rushing had he not stumbled to the ground on his longest gain of the night - an 18-yard carry in the third quarter that could have gone much farther.

    "It shows that your legs are a little tired from camp," Jackson said. "But I've got to freshen up. I've got to run through that. Who knows? That could've been the play that helped win the game."

    Jackson could be in for a heavy workload Aug. 23 in Kansas City, the Rams' next preseason game. Gordon will be sidelined for about three more weeks after ankle surgery. Arlen Harris' status is uncertain after Harris suffered a concussion after just four carries against Chicago. That leaves Marshall Faulk and ... Dusty McGrorty as the only other running back possibilities. McGrorty, an undrafted free agent, did not get any carries against Chicago.

    As for Faulk, coach Mike Martz is considering playing him against the Chiefs, but normally likes to wait until the third preseason game before using Faulk in August.

    Bulger's night

    Did quarterback Marc Bulger get enough work against the Bears?

    "It's never enough," Bulger said. "But that's what you expect coming into the first preseason game. We got a good combination of red zone (work), drop-back passes, play-action passes, some runs. For the first game, I think we were happy to get that much accomplished."

    Bulger was in for only the Rams' first series - a 12-play, 64-yard
    -08-14-2004, 01:33 AM
  • RamDez
    Martz pleased with Rams' running attack
    by RamDez
    Martz pleased with Rams' running attack
    Admits he lost track of score against Raiders

    [email protected]

    ST. LOUIS - St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz was pleased with what his team accomplished in the preseason -- especially in showing that it could effectively run the ball -- despite winning only one of their four games.

    The Rams rushed for 480 yards -- an average of 120 yards per game -- in their four preseason contests.

    The Rams gained 171 yards on the ground in their 28-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night.

    "I feel good with where we are, I really do," Martz said. "The area where we wanted to get better was running the football, and we made a big emphasis on that the last few games.

    "Regardless of who was in the game, we wanted to run the football."

    The Rams were 30th among the NFL's 32 teams in rushing offense last season. They averaged only 93.5 rushing yards per game and only 3.6 yards per rushing attempt.

    "Running the football well was a big deal to me in the off-season," Martz said. "We were not an effective team running the football. We give a lot of attention to our passing game, but we've always been able to run the ball very effectively, and last year we didn't do that.

    "We have to get back to doing some of the things that are basic to this offense."

    Running back Marshall Faulk had only four carries for 11 yards against the Raiders. He also had two receptions for 20 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown reception.

    Martz said he has seen enough of Faulk in his limited play in the preseason to feel he's close to being his old self after a series of knee problems.

    "I was really impressed with Marshall last night," Martz said. "He's got his juice, boy. When he was in there, they were coming after us with safeties and linebackers, they didn't want him to get going.

    "He was very physical running up in there. He made some big plays -- both of those passes, the check-down on third down, and of course, the touchdown -- he looks terrific to me."

    Rookie Steven Jackson rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries, while Lamar Gordon rushed for 77 yards on 22 carries in his first action of the preseason.

    Gordon underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone chip from his ankle last month.

    "That's the first time that he has been hit or put the pads on for four weeks," Martz said. "To go and take the ball up in there like he did ... he took some horrendous hits there out on the edge and spun and jumped and twisted and turned and stayed in the game.

    "I was very impressed with his toughness and the burst he had and the acceleration he showed."

    Martz admitted that he mistakenly thought...
    -09-05-2004, 04:57 AM
  • RamWraith
    St. Louis ready to Ram it down opposition's throat
    by RamWraith
    By Larry Weisman, USA TODAY

    ST. LOUIS — Imagine the St. Louis Rams with a big, power rusher featured in a grind-it-out offense and a coach willing to call one running play after the next. The first part is a reality called Steven Jackson. The second is almost too weird to consider. And that last suggestion? Mike Martz in love with the run? Maybe next lifetime.
    But it could happen considerably sooner than that. Like now. Revolution is in the air, or on the ground. With the 6-2, 231-pound Jackson stepping in as the starting running back in place of Marshall Faulk, the Rams, with a hammer in the backfield rather than a slasher, may change their philosophy.

    "You try to take advantage of whatever your strengths are," says Martz, whose team closes out the preseason Friday night at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. "We've retooled our offensive line, and I'd love to give that ball to Steven and pound it in there and pound it in there and take our shots downfield when we feel like it. That's fun football. That means we've got control of the game."

    The Rams lacked that last season, when they were 8-8 and a wild-card playoff qualifier. They scored 319 points, down from 447 in 2003, and were held to 17 or fewer in half of their games. Their quarterbacks were sacked 50 times, the most since Martz became head coach in 2000.

    If Monday night's 37-13 preseason victory against the Detroit Lions means anything, this new model works. Jackson carried 12 times for 105 yards in the first half and finished with 14 for 108. Faulk added three carries for 22 yards in the first two quarters. The Rams ran 39 times and passed 25 on their way to 453 yards of total offense, 183 on the ground.

    "Steven can put a lot of pressure on people," Martz says. "You'll see a different type of approach offensively."

    The Rams under Martz have always thrown before they ran. Martz says he derived his philosophy in part from Norv Turner. He was on Turner's staff with the Washington Redskins in 1997-98 and says he carefully studied the way Turner, now the Oakland Raiders' head coach, attacked as offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys (1991-93), when the Cowboys won consecutive Super Bowls.

    Turner, Martz says, threw the ball on 70% of the first-half snaps and ran it on 70% of the second-half plays. The rationale: "You throw the ball in the first half and they're rushing the passer, rushing the passer, and you start running the ball when you're fresh."

    The switch to Jackson as a starter was suggested by Faulk late last season. While Jackson is younger and less physically worn than Faulk, he must sharpen parts of his game to become a more complete player.

    "I'm still working on my pass routes," says Jackson, the club's No. 1 pick in 2004. "I never had to do it to this extent. In college...
    -09-01-2005, 10:21 AM
  • RamWraith
    Steven Jackson has sore knee, is expected to play
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Dec. 28 2004

    Three weeks ago, running back Steven Jackson was walking on crutches because of
    a swollen ankle the day after the Rams' 16-6 victory over San Francisco.

    As was the case against the *****, Jackson couldn't finish Monday night's game
    with Philadelphia after banging his knee on the artificial turf at the Edward
    Jones Dome. But this time there were no crutches and, apparently, little to no
    swelling in Jackson's knee.

    An MRI exam Tuesday revealed no structural damage, only a soft tissue bruise.

    "He's fine," Martz said. "There's no damage. In fact, there's a significant
    healing from the tear."

    The tear? Apparently Jackson suffered a slightly torn medial collateral
    ligament in his right knee against San Francisco. Such injuries do not require
    surgery and basically heal with time.

    In any event, Martz expects Jackson to play in Sunday's regular-season finale
    against the New York Jets.

    "He probably will," Martz said. "I think it was more just aggravating a sore

    Jackson made the last of his 24 carries against Philadelphia with just over 10
    minutes to play. Before calling it a night, Jackson rushed for a career-high
    148 yards and a touchdown in the Rams' 20-7 victory.

    "He was terrific," Martz said. "He looks like a great runner to me. That first
    series in there, we were handing the ball off to him and he was running through
    them, around them, every which way you can. He's a terrific back, and the
    offensive line did a terrific job."

    With Jackson getting six carries and Marshall Faulk four, the Rams ran the ball
    10 consecutive times on their opening drive. When asked if he could recall a
    situation in which he ran the ball that many times in a row, Martz paused and
    replied: "No."

    He came close Dec. 12 against Carolina, calling nine straight running plays -
    all involving Arlen Harris - on a drive that began late in the third quarter.

    Before Monday night was over, the Rams had run the ball 44 times for 209 yards
    against the Eagles - both season highs. So why such a conviction to run the
    ball against Philadelphia?

    "Whenever we've had success against Philadelphia, we've run the ball well,"
    Martz said. "You start getting into a passing game with them, then they sack
    you and create bad plays. Knock your quarterback out. And all that stuff.

    "I didn't think we would do that well (running), obviously. But as long as we
    kept going - it's just like throwing the ball. If you keep completing it, you
    -12-30-2004, 05:01 AM
  • RamWraith
    Camp tour: Rams' tough Jackson takes torch from aging Faulk
    by RamWraith
    Aug. 27, 2005
    By Pete Prisco
    CBS Senior Writer

    ST. LOUIS -- For all the yardage and points the St. Louis Rams have put up during the Mike Martz era of offensive football, they've always been viewed as one of the softer teams in the league, a pretty point-machine that didn't have the toughness to pound the ball when it needed to do so.
    When you finish a season ranked 29th in the league in rushing, which the Rams did in 2004, that's a hard reputation to shake.

    That is about to change.

    Martz still prefers the pass -- and for that he is to be saluted -- but there are 231 reasons why he's about to lean more about the power running game than at any time in his tenure with the team. That number 231 is the weight for starting running back Steven Jackson, who takes over in that role from veteran Marshall Faulk.

    Faulk is on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he will get there with an amazing cutting ability and speed that allowed him to turn what should have been a 12-yard run into a 70-yard touchdown.

    Jackson is all about power, which is something the Rams haven't had in their backfield since the Jerome Bettis days.

    Finesse is about to go bye-bye.

    "He brings the power," Rams receiver Torry Holt said. "He's a hard, tough back. He's like Eddie George with more speed and burst. He brings another air of toughness to our side of the ball."

    Looking at Jackson, it's clear he's going to be a heck of a tough runner to tackle for opposing defenses. At 6-2, he is thick and looks even bigger than his listed height and weight. Thinking of him coming at you full speed isn't a soothing thought.

    St. Louis Rams
    Out of Nowhere Man
    DB Corey Ivey
    When the Rams brought Corey Ivey into camp, they weren't too sure he'd make their team. As it turns out, he might be their nickel back. He has made a lot of plays in camp, and has been one of the pleasant surprises. At 5-8, he's spent six years in the league without much fanfare, playing for New England and Tampa Bay. He doesn't have a career interception, but that may change in 2005.

    As a rookie last season, he showed the toughness to run inside, but he also showed the burst to rip off the long runs. Martz stuck with Faulk as his starter -- some said it was because he has a soft spot in his heart when it comes to Faulk -- but eventually Jackson became the starter before knee problems limited him late in the season.

    Martz officially named him the starter in the spring -- Jackson learned about it while watching television from his home in Las Vegas -- but Jackson said the transition was made last season.

    "The transition took place long before you guys knew it," Jackson said. "Look at the game last year. I was playing...
    -08-27-2005, 08:14 PM