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St. Louis Rams' Run Defense Will Get Severe Test

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  • St. Louis Rams' Run Defense Will Get Severe Test

    St. Louis Rams' run defense will get severe test

    Steven Jackson and Chris Johnson have mutual friends and bumped into each other a couple of times last offseason.

    "We actually were supposed to get together and work out this offseason," Jackson said.

    But Johnson is from Florida and Jackson's hometown is Las Vegas. They couldn't make the geography work.

    "We just couldn't match any dates up to be able to train together," Jackson said.

    Even minus those joint workouts, things have worked out pretty well for both running backs. Sore back and all, Jackson leads the NFC — and is second in the NFL — with 1,232 yards rushing. Johnson leads the AFC — and the NFL — with 1,509 yards rushing.

    So Sunday in Nashville, it'll be the league's No. 1 and No. 2 ground gainers going head to head when Jackson's Rams meet Johnson's Tennessee Titans.

    "I think there's a sense of pride," Jackson said. "But Chris is having an unbelievable year. He's having a year I can only dream to have one day."

    Johnson is on pace to become the sixth running back in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He has averaged 126 yards a game so far; if he averages 149 yards over the final four games, he'll equal the NFL's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, set by Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams in 1984.

    It will be up to the 28th-ranked Rams run defense to make sure Johnson doesn't run wild on them at LP Field. For most Rams defenders — maybe all of them — Johnson will be the fastest back they've ever faced.

    "No question," defensive tackle Clifton Ryan said. "It's in the books, for life, that he ran a 4.23, whatever it was."

    (Johnson ran the 40 in a sizzling 4.24 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.)

    "The guy's fast straight ahead," Ryan continued. "He's fast laterally. He's got great vision. A patient runner. He doesn't fumble the ball much. He's up there in that upper-echelon class with Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson and himself — those are the top three backs in the league. Each of them has their own great dimensions that they bring to the game."

    Obviously, speed is the X factor with Johnson. Any time Johnson breaks the line of scrimmage, he's a threat to go the distance. Before this season, no one in NFL history had more than three 85-yard touchdown runs in a career. Johnson already has three this season, with scoring runs of 91, 89 and 85 yards.

    "He's here for a minute, and he's gone the next," Tennessee quarterback Vince Young told St. Louis reporters. "That's just a God-given talent. Some guys either have it, or some guys don't. Obviously, you see that he has it."

    The Rams are allowing 146 yards rushing a game, and are on pace to yield 2,339 rushing yards this season, which would be the fourth-worst total in franchise history. They have allowed 51 "explosive" runs — runs of 10 yards or more — including 10 of 22 yards or more.

    "I just don't think (Johnson) can have an 85-yarder," Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. "Those seem to be the ones that kind of break your back emotionally. So we've just got to make sure that we do a good job of containing him.

    "He's going to get his yards. It's like saying Drew Brees isn't going to complete a pass. I think when you're rare, and you're talented, you're going to get some yards. It's just the explosive ones that we've got to eliminate."

    Against the Rams, Johnson will attempt to break a Tennessee franchise record he currently shares with Earl Campbell by rushing for 100 yards or more in his eighth consecutive game.

    For his part, Jackson has rushed for 100 yards-plus in five of his last six contests. Playing for one of the league's worst passing teams, Jackson continues to bust his way through or run around eight- and nine-man fronts from opposing defenses. Even with the back injury that has kept him out of practice for three straight weeks, Jackson has averaged 100.5 yards rushing the last two games.

    Jackson didn't discount the possibility that he may have to follow the "no-practice" routine for the rest of this season.

    "First things first is making sure that I'm ready to go on Sunday," Jackson said. "And rehabbing with the training staff and making sure that my back is getting to the point where I can take the carries, and take the pounding. That's what's more important than going out there on a Wednesday, when no one's watching.

    "Of course I would like to get the (practice) reps. But what's important is that I'm able to at least get to the point of being able to play. If we had a Thursday night game, I wouldn't be able to go, just being honest with you, because of the pounding I take on Sunday. I need the entire week to get ready to do it again."

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  • r8rh8rmike
    Bernie: Jackson And Johnson Should Make For A Good Show
    by r8rh8rmike
    Jackson and Johnson should make for good show

    Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz

    I'm looking forward to Sunday's game between the Rams and Titans for one reason: We'll be treated to an entertaining showcase of running backs. This should be a fun duel in Nashville.

    Tennessee's Chris Johnson (1,509 yards) and the Rams' Steven Jackson (1,206 yards) are the NFL's two leading rushers. They're getting it done with contrasting styles. Jackson is power-back thunder. Johnson is a speed-back streak of lightning.

    Jackson can ram his way over the tough terrain. He leads NFL running backs in broken tackles, with 21. He's second in the NFL in yards gained after contact, 683. Jackson's power bursts have led to 35 runs of 10 yards or more, most in the NFL. Johnson, a comet, has touchdown sprints of 91, 89, 85, 57 and 52 yards this season.

    Johnson is threatening to break the NFL's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, held by Eric Dickerson. And unless he goes down with an injury, Johnson will probably win this season's rushing title. He'll finish with more yards than Jackson.

    But I'd argue that Jackson has had the more impressive season for this simple reason: He's doing this under more difficult and excruciating circumstances. Everyone in the stadium knows Jackson will be getting the ball. He's the only playmaker on the Rams' offense. Opposing defenses can overload their front line to stop him, and Jackson gets pounded every Sunday. There's no relief from the hammering to his body.

    At least the Titans have a quarterback, Vince Young, who can make plays and keep a defense off balance with his strong arm and deft running ability. And at least Johnson, as a pure and elusive speed runner, can avoid some of the hits. The Rams have no way to keep the defense from jumping Jackson.

    Sunday's game should offer an example. Johnson has the advantage because he'll go against a Rams defense that's ranked 28th in the NFL against the run. The Rams have given up three runs of 50+ yards, nine runs of 20+ yards and 48 runs of 10+ yards.

    Jackson won't find much looseness in Tennesse's defensive alignment. He'll have to take on a Titans defense that's ranked No. 8 in the NFL against the run.

    Jackson has missed nine practices with a sore back, but on game day, he keeps on running. This will be his third consecutive game of playing with considerable back pain. And every time Jackson touches the ball, he'll be gang-tackled and rocked by the Titans.

    But Jackson keeps getting up. He keeps running. For all that has gone wrong for the Rams in 2009, Jackson continues to represent the one thing that's undeniably right. For all of the intense effort to beat him down and make him quit, no defense has succeeded in taking the fight out of No. 39.

    Jackson grinds...
    -12-12-2009, 11:40 AM
  • RamWraith
    Steven Jackson is hitting his stride
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas

    Steven Jackson has a number in mind, but he's not telling. At least not now.

    "When I hit it, I'll let you know," Jackson said last week. "I promise, I'll let you know."

    Those remarks were made prior to last Sunday's Rams game against Arizona, when Jackson topped 1,000 yards rushing for the second year in a row. Jackson enters Monday night's game against Chicago with 1,028 rushing yards. But that's not the magic number, either.

    "I'm not at that number yet," Jackson said. "But it's an even number, and hopefully by Week 17 we'll be there."

    Jackson may never make Rams fans forget Marshall Faulk. But with four games to play, he's putting up Faulk-like numbers. Jackson is on pace for 1,371 yards, which would be just 11 yards shy of Faulk's career-high 1,382 rushing yards for the Rams in 2001.

    Throw in Jackson's receiving yards, and he's on pace for 2,200 yards from scrimmage, a total Faulk surpassed only once in St. Louis with his NFL-record 2,429 yards from scrimmage in 1999.

    Safety Corey Chavous has played with and against some top flight running backs in nine NFL seasons with Arizona, Minnesota, and now the Rams. He ranks Jackson with the top backs in the game today.

    "He is, in my opinion, one of the top three running backs in professional football, if not the top back," Chavous said. "When you start looking at his numbers, and what he's been able to do."

    By the numbers, Jackson deserves to be mentioned among the game's elite backs this season. He ranks third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,650); sixth in rushing yards; is tied for third in first downs gained (77); and is tied for third in receptions (72).

    Short yardage, you say? Jackson and Brandon Jacobs of the New York Giants share the league lead with 10 first downs on third-and-1.

    The only category where Jackson falls short of elite backs such as San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and Kansas City's Larry Johnson is touchdowns. Jackson has scored a modest six times this season, well short of Tomlinson's 26 or Johnson's 15.

    The biggest surprise with Jackson in 2006 has been his pass catching. He's on track for 96 catches, which would break Faulk's franchise record for catches by a running back — 87 — set in 1999.

    "I don't know if it's a surprise," coach Scott Linehan said. "It's kind of an untapped resource that I think has been utilized based on him playing full time now. He's taking full advantage of it."

    In terms of receptions, Jackson and Torry Holt form the top receiving tandem in the NFL, with 142 catches between them.

    "I approached this year knowing that I'm going to be the guy,"...
    -12-08-2006, 01:35 PM
  • VegasRam
    More love for Jackson... (Prisco)
    by VegasRam
    Here's the link. I couldn't figure out how to copy it since it was on two pages.
    -06-06-2006, 07:02 AM
  • dgr828
    "Dickerson's going down!" ~ Chris Johnson
    by dgr828
    Tennessee Titans RB and NFL leading rusher Chris Johnson has been quoted through sources that, not only will he go over 2,000 yards rushing this year, but he will also break Eric Dickersons' All-Time Rushing (Season) record of 2,105 yards. Eric set the record in 1984 as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. Few have tried to conquer this momentive achievement, Barry Sanders and Jamal Lewis were able to rush over 2,000, but both fell short when it came to chasing down Dickersons NFL record.

    Chris ("Every Coaches Dream") Johnson has all but guaranteed that he will surpass the former Rams Hall of Fame Running Back this season.
    The Saint Louis Rams travel to Nashville (December 13) to face the Titans. Chris' "Dream" should be motivation enough for the Rams defense to stop the RUN as well as protect its own longtime hallowed Rams record.

    Will the Titans Chris Johnson break Eric Dickerson's All-Time (Season) rushing record?

    As it stands now Johnson has rushed for 1,396 yards with 5 games to go in the 2009 season. It'll be interesting to see if "Every Coaches Dream" holds true to his word or maybe his bark is just biggger than is bite!

    2,105 is very special and important NFL mark! Only one man can say he's rushed for that many yards in a season. He would also say he had a Damn good Rams offensive line.

    Hey Chris, KEEP DREAMING!


    1. Chris Johnson (TEN) 1,396 yards

    2. Steven Jackson (STL) 1,120 yards

    3. Adrian Peterson (MIN) 1,084 yards

    4. Thomas Jones (NYJ) 1,068 yards

    5. DeAngelo Williams (CAR) 1,022 yards

    6. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) 1,001 yards
    -12-06-2009, 12:48 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    What To Watch: Tennessee
    by r8rh8rmike
    What to Watch: Tennessee
    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    What to Watch: Tennessee

    1. Chris 2K

    The Rams defense has seen its share of top running backs this year, including Minnesota star Adrian Peterson. But none of those backs come with the home run ability of Tennessee star Chris Johnson.

    Johnson has elbowed his way into the MVP discussion by leading the league in rushing at 1,509 yards, breaking the 100-yard mark in seven consecutive games. It’s no coincidence that the Titans have gone 5-2 in those contests after a 0-5 start.

    There might not be a faster player in the league than Johnson, who once registered a 4.24 in the 40-yard dash. He has the moves to go with it; too, boasting an impressive jump cut and make you miss elusiveness that draws comparisons to Barry Sanders.

    More than anything, it’s Johnson’s ability to break a long touchdown run at any moment that makes him so dangerous. For evidence, absorb the fact that Johnson has three runs of 85 or more yards this season that have gone for touchdowns.

    No player in NFL history has recorded that many plays of more than 85 yards in a career.

    “I just don’t think you can have an 85-yarder,” Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. “Those seem to be the ones that kind of break your back emotionally, so we just have to make sure we do a good job of containing him. He is going to get his yards because it is like saying (New Orleans quarterback) Drew Brees isn’t going to complete a pass. I think when you are rare and you are talented, you are going to get some yards. It is just the explosive ones that we have to eliminate.”

    As Flajole points out, you can’t stop Johnson but limiting his big plays can go a long way toward a victory.

    2. Containing Young

    As though slowing down Johnson doesn’t present enough problems, the Rams also have to deal with athletic quarterback Vince Young.

    Young’s return to the starting lineup has energized the Titans, who are 5-1 this year with him at the controls. He has matured dramatically in the past year after the death of mentor Steve McNair and spending time on the bench.

    Young has come back with a vengeance, completing more than 60 percent of his passes and taking care of the ball with just three interceptions.

    Of course, what makes Young so dangerous is his ability to get out of the pocket and makes plays with his legs and arm.

    “They find different ways to get him the football,” Flajole said. “You probably see that they run him on quarterback draw, they run him on option plays, they run a little zone key play where he has the ability to throw a bubble screen if he gets the right look or keep the ball himself. They’ve been very creative with him. They do a good job of making...
    -12-12-2009, 06:31 PM