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Bernie Bytes: Appreciating Steven Jackson

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  • Bernie Bytes: Appreciating Steven Jackson

    by Bernie Miklasz

    When Steven Jackson arrived in Earth City in 2004, the Rams were still a decent team. They'd go 8-8 and squeeze into the playoffs, winning a wild-card game at Seattle before getting ambushed at Atlanta in the second round. It was basically the last hurrah of what was left of the "Greatest Show" years. Marshall Faulk was still around, and Jackson could never be fully accepted as long as #28 was here.

    But as Faulk's knees gave out, Jackson took over. He also took over at a time when the Rams' franchise spiraled into a dramatic state of decline. Jackson was caught in the vortex. He piled up lots of yards, but with the team losing so many games, the production was downgraded or dismissed as largely irrelevant among the more ignorant Jackson critics.

    Which, of course, was nonsense. Blaming Jackson for the team's failure to win was silly. It's the equivalent of blaming him for all of the horrible draft picks and personnel decisions, or holding him responsible for Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Orlando Pace getting old. Because that's why the Rams turned into a bad team; star players left or slowed down or were physically damaged and the front office did a terrible job in replacing them. That wasn't Jackson's fault. If anything it made his performance even more remarkable. Because over the last few seasons, every coach, every coordinator went into a game against the Rams with only one thing to worry about: stack enough players in the box, and smother Steven Jackson. And he powered his way to extra yards, fighting to do what he could to help the team. Between 2005 and 2009, five seasons, Jackson averaged more yards from scrimmage per game (116.2) than any NFL player, even with the defense aligned with the solitary goal of stopping him. And yet we heard constant criticism of Jax in this town. It was strange.

    Granted, in Jackson's early years here, he was certainly a tad immature. He said some things he shouldn't have said. His contract holdout a few summers ago was ill-advised. And that's why so many fans refused to warm up to Jackson. But in the grand scheme of things, this was minor stuff. It's not as if Jackson was a bad person, or a rotten teammate. He was just, well, young. And probably frustrated to be donating his career to a lost cause.

    It's interesting to see how Jackson has evolved. He's become a tremendous leader under head coach Steve Spagnuolo. Jax has been a positive influence in his vocal leadership, and in his actions. Though last year's 1-15 record -- and a back injury -- probably had Jackson screaming inside, he never wavered from his commitment to be a forward-thinking Ram who could see daylight ahead. Jackson trained very hard. He's taken care of himself. He's put in extra time. Tuesday morning, on a day off, Jackson was at Rams Park, studying video of Sunday's opponent, Detroit.

    Sunday, Jackson gave the Rams 70 yards rushing and 54 receiving while playing on one good leg. A groin injury took away his acceleration and ability to motor in a lateral direction, but it didn't matter. Jackson gutted it out. This was a huge game for the Rams, and Jackson gave them one from the heart. Inspirational. Yes.

    I sense, and I hope, that things have changed for him in St. Louis. I can't imagine why fans who once disliked Jackson because of his occasional popping off would still hold it against him. That would be rather bitter and foolish, no? I think young people, including athletes, are allowed to grow up, and become wiser as they do. Jackson is one of those individuals. Really, at age 27 he's everything you'd want in a leader.

    Here's the interesting thing to me: through four games, Jackson ranks 10th in the league in rushing yards, 12th in yards from scrimmage, and 14th in average yards from scrimmage per game. Some younger backs are getting more yards and glory now. Guys like Arian Foster, Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall, LeSean McCoy may finish with more yards than Jackson this season.

    Who knows? The Rams, with quarterback Sam Bradford and a better offensive line, are more capable of doing damage through the air. The offense will lean heavily on Jackson, but it's more diversified. So it's a little ironic: at a time when Jackson's production has dropped a bit, relative to other NFL backs, you can make the case that the respect for him has never been higher. It's because of the quality of leadership SJ39 is providing for an emerging team. It's because the Rams have found a QB, some receivers, a defense and better players to go 2-2. It wasn't Jackson's fault that the Rams were losing before, but it's just as well that he receives credit now.

    I think it's overdue. For the longest time, Jackson took a beating for an awful football team. Now that the team is improving, he's more appreciated for what he represents. He's a football survivor. SJ39 deserves every accolade that comes his way ...

    Reading Time 2 Minutes:

    * The Rams are starting to receive some national attention. For instance, Terry Bradshaw will be visiting Rams Park for a sitdown interview with Sam Bradford. I don't think any of this stuff will distract Bradford. He's been through this before. He was a Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma. Bradford handled the limelight beautifully at OU. He will handle it smoothly here. Bradford is anchored. He's as solid as it gets. Don't worry about the extra attention. As for the other Rams players -- well there isn't a rush to their lockers by a bunch of out-of-town media. They'll be fine. Spagnuolo is good at keeping his team locked in mentally.

    * Alex Barron doesn't work here anymore ... one encouraging stat about the Rams offensive line through four games. Only three false starts so far, one each by Jason Smith, Rodger Saffold and Adam Goldberg. Moreover, the Rams O-linemen have had four holding penalties assessed against them, and only three were actually enforced. And another, against J. Smith, was completely bogus. Compared to recent seasons, this appears to be much more efficient and stable line.

    * Only five NFL wide receivers have been targeted for more passing attempts than the Rams' Mark Clayton. Bradford has thrown to Clayton 41 times, completing 22 for 300 yards and two TDs. Clayton has four plays of 25+ yards; that ties him for fourth most in the NFL. A brilliant pickup by Rams GM Billy Devaney.

    Thanks for reading ...


  • #2
    Re: Bernie Bytes: Appreciating Steven Jackson

    amen to the Oline doin' work !!!


    • #3
      Re: Bernie Bytes: Appreciating Steven Jackson

      I agree 100% about the rams offensive line. Going into this season I was a little worried about their young offensive tackles, but was not worried about their center of guards after the season they had last year.

      So far this season I am surprised and impressed at how well the offensive line is playing.

      Go Rams 2010


      • #4
        Re: Bernie Bytes: Appreciating Steven Jackson

        Agreed. It could definitely use more polishing and final touching up ( the O-line) but so far I'm really impressed with the mental focus and discipline of these guys and the chemistry will only get better which in turn means less worries.


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        • Nick
          Bernie Bytes: Rams not smart with Jackson
          by Nick
          I don't know that I've ever agreed with a Bernie article more than I do this one. I feel like I should be calling a hotline so someone can talk me back to sanity, but I think he really nailed this one. Love the Hanifan comments....
          -01-04-2011, 03:48 PM
        • MauiRam
          Bernie: Rams' Jackson is building a legacy
          by MauiRam
          6 hours ago • BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist

          This is a column about Rams running back Steven Jackson, who may be having the best career of a bad-team player in modern NFL history.

          We'll get to SJ39 in a few moments.

          First, some relevant background:

          Last month I spent two days in Canton, Ohio to participate in a senior committee meeting at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I was honored to be among the five voters asked to choose two 'senior" players for Hall of Fame consideration.

          After hours of discussion and several rounds of voting, we chose nose tackle Curley Culp (Kansas City, Houston) and linebacker Dave Robinson (Green Bay.) If the full selection committee approves with a vote the day before the Super Bowl, Culp and Robinson will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame next summer.

          At the beginning of the process , we probably reviewed more than 100 players. Many of them were outstanding and accomplished NFL players. For some reason, they were overlooked when their names appeared on the normal Hall of Fame ballot. That's why there's a senior committee: to undo past mistakes and recognize Hall-worthy players who slipped through the cracks.

          Which brings us back to Steven Jackson.

          Will he get lost in history?

          Jackson is building a Hall of Fame case. He's putting up consistently good numbers over a long stretch of seasons. Jackson has managed to produce at a high level and roll up the yards under circumstances that put him at a disadvantage. And that makes his career even more impressive.

          Jackson hasn't had the benefit of being surrounded by many talented teammates. He hasn't had the assistance provided by competent coaching. He hasn't had the advantage of working for a smart football operation that keeps the roster stocked with quality players.

          Jackson hasn't set up behind a formidable offensive line. Except on rare occasion, he hasn't had the luxury of having running lanes opened by a dynamic passing game. In 2006 the Rams had an energetic and accurate Marc Bulger dishing passes to Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and the Rams finished fourth in the NFL in passing yards.

          It's no coincidence that Jackson had his best NFL season in 2006, leading the NFL with 2,334 yards from scrimmage and scoring 16 touchdowns. But the Rams' passing game soon faded into mediocrity, and defenses began stacking eight men in the box to gang up on Jackson. But SJ39 still rumbled to 1,000-yard seasons.

          In his eight seasons in St. Louis Jackson has played for five head coaches: Mike Martz, Joe Vitt, Scott Linehan, Jim Haslett and Steve Spagnuolo. He's had several GMs, and a procession of multiple offensive coordinators. Now Jeff Fisher is in charge, making it six coaches in nine seasons.

          In Jackson's first eight years, the Rams won 37 games and lost...
          -09-02-2012, 01:00 PM
        • r8rh8rmike
          Bernie Bytes: Why Jackson Is Available
          by r8rh8rmike
          Bernie Bytes: Why Jackson is available

          42 minutes ago • BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist

          Let’s talk about Steven Jackson and trade rumors. I have several points to offer:

          • First of all, I have no idea if any team has pitched an offer to the Rams for SJ39. So this is all hypothetical, and pretty much useless, unless we know exactly what the Rams’ options are.

          • One national outlet apparently reported that the Dallas Cowboys would be willing to give the Rams a pair of second-round draft choices for Jax. I find that hard to believe given Jackson’s advanced RB age (29); his freedom to become a free agent after the season; and the Rams’ low leverage. However, if there’s anything crazier than offering a pair of deuces for Jackson, it would be this: Les Snead and Jeff Fisher rejecting such a trade. A pair of No. 2s for Jackson? Take it and laugh at the Cowboys. But again: I can’t believe there’s any substance to the rumor.

          • Green Bay is a potential fit, but Packers GM Ted Thompson isn’t the type to casually throw draft choices around. The Packers have benefited from outstanding drafts with Thompson in charge; picks are precious commodities to him. So even if the Packers do make an offer, it’s unlikely to amount to much.

          • Is Jackson expendable? Of course he is. I’m a Jackson fan. I have admired his positive attitude and impressive consistency in production over the years; this is one of the best bad-team players in NFL history. Jackson has never been fully appreciated here, and I don’t know why. As I have said before: to hold the losing years against him is absolutely insane — unless you have proof that Jackson was responsible for drafting the players and destroying the team’s roster over the last decade.

          • Jackson, however, is expendable simply because he’s no longer an essential player. He’s no longer a franchise back. This doesn’t mean that his skills have eroded in a dramatic way. But Jeff Fisher is doing things differently than his predecessors. He’s using a time-share deployment at running back. Jackson’s workload has been reduced, as the Rams continue to give a meaningful role to rookie RB Daryl Richardson. This new system has been misinterpreted by some. Fisher isn’t splitting the carries because he’s down on Jackson; the coach is just a believer in the current NFL philosophy of using two backs instead of one. So in that context, Jackson’s presence isn’t nearly as vital as it used to be.

          • Jackson is averaging only 13.5 carries per game this season; 21 NFL running backs have averaged more rushing attempts per game this season. The 13.5 carries are the lowest for Jackson since his rookie year (2004) when the Rams still had Marshall Faulk. In the ensuing seasons, through 2010, Jackson never averaged fewer than 17 rushing attempts per game. And he ranked second in the league in average carries per game (20.6)...
          -10-30-2012, 12:47 PM
        • RamWraith
          Memo to Steven Jackson
          by RamWraith
          By Bernie Miklasz

          I believe Rams RB Steven Jackson has a good heart, and that he wants to win. I also respect that he wants the ball in his hands with a game on the line. The great competitors always want to make the difference when it matters most.

          That said, Jackson shouldn’t be showing up his head coach, Scott Linehan, by screaming at the boss on the sideline late in the game, as S.Jax did Sunday with the Rams going down to the *****.

          Though Jackson was diplomatic in his comments the day after the 17-16 loss to San Francisco, he clearly was irate on Sunday afternoon when the Rams blew the chance to win.

          Jackson apparently wants the ball more often in meaningful situations. He doesn’t want to removed from a game when it can still be a win. I can respect that.

          But here’s the deal, delivered with some straight talk:

          Jackson is no victim here. He can play much better than he has, so he shouldn’t be fuming at others.

          Jackson lost two critical fumbles in the opening loss to Carolina. And against the Niners, Jackson did a terrible job on his blitz pickups, and was directly responsible for multiple body blows absorbed by QB Marc Bulger.

          Moreover, Jackson wasn’t sharp with his run reads. He missed a few excellent chances for cutback runs. And he did the Peter Pan too often, fluttering and floating instead of powering into the hole.

          Jackson is a huge talent. I also think he’s a good dude. He is capable of greatness. But that is earned. So is the respect that Jackson craves.

          The NFL isn’t a Nike commercial. In the real game, backs have to make blocks and run hard and take care of business on the field.

          And before hollering at the coach over the job he’s doing, make sure that you’re doing your own job to the best of your ability.
          -09-18-2007, 04:07 AM
        • RamWraith
          Hadley on Jackson
          by RamWraith
          Friday, November 10, 2006

          GIVE 39 HIS PROPS

          Steven Jackson has elevated his game in ‘06...

          I’ve never hidden my disdain for the actions of Steve Jackson during the 2005 season and during the offseason.

          Jackson basically sold-out some teammates, and coaches last season. Jackson failed to run with authority refusing to look in the mirror.

          Simply stated, from a personal standpoint… I have no respect for Jackson.

          From a professional standpoint… I applaud the effort of Steven Jackson this season.

          Jackson has moved upwardly in virtually every aspect of his role as the lead running back.

          Prior to the season on The Big 550 (KTRS), I stated that Jackson had “talk the talk without walking the walk.”

          In the first eight games of this season… he’s walkin’ miles ahead of his talkin’.

          Forget the traditional numbers… allow me to present more focused, detailed and in some cases much more pertinent numbers.

          The following facts and stats illustrate how Jackson has significantly increased his performance in key situations:

          THE LAST 10...

          Justly, many fans and analysts (including moi) chided Jackson for his lack of efficiency in the red zone and more important from the opposing 10-yard line to the goal line. His performance last season and in the first three-plus games this season demanded perplexity. In 2006, Jackson’s first eight touches inside the opposing 10-yard line resulted in a total of negative two yards… that’s right eight touches for a negative two yards. Since that point, he has been a legit factor bordering on dominate prior to a fumble this past weekend.

          *Jackson has scored a touchdown from inside the opposition 10-yard line in four of the last five games.

          *Jackson has 14 straight touches without a negative play inside the opposing 10-yard line.

          *He has gained 50 percent or more of the yardage necessary for pay dirt six times his last 12 touches inside the opposing 10-yard line.

          *He has gained, collectively, 74 percent of the necessary yardage for pay dirt over his last 12 touches inside the opposing 10-yard line.

          Conclusion: Jackson has become a legit factor when the Rams penetrate deep into opposing territory. A key has been the fact that the play-calling diversified. The coaching staff ran Jackson “right” his first six carries inside the opposing 10-yard line (and eight of 10). Since that point, he has run up the gut three times, ran left three times, ran once to the right in addition to catching three passes. Simply stated, improved effort by Jackson and creative play-calling has equated into success.

          THE FIRST 19...

          The most underrated barometer for analyzing power runners is performance efficiency deep in...
          -11-11-2006, 06:22 AM