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Jackson, Run Game on a Roll

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  • Jackson, Run Game on a Roll

    On the heels of two straight dominant performances in the running game and with the Browns’ 30th-ranked run defense awaiting in Cleveland, it stands to reason that Rams running back Steven Jackson could go for the hat trick of 100-yard games this weekend.

    Of course, Jackson knows that will be easier said than done because time and again in his career, he’s been asked about facing a team that’s struggled against the run and then seen that team throw everything it has at stopping him en route to its best run defense of the season.

    “Story of my career,” Jackson said. “When certain teams come to town, certain players come to town, statistically those things don’t matter. I’m pretty sure that all week they’ve been game planning and knowing what they like to do, especially having (Head) Coach (Pat) Shurmur over there. He was personally with me for two years, so I’m pretty sure they’ll be up for the challenge and the test. I don’t look at 30th, being ranked 30th saying it’s going to be an easy Sunday. It’ll be a very challenging Sunday.”

    The basic premise of Jackson’s thesis is that teams that have struggled against the run, when faced with a team that features the running game so prominently, will often do everything in its power to force the other part of the offense to beat it.

    In this case, the Browns have struggled some against the run and have been outstanding against the pass (ranking first in the league). For their part, the Rams have been riding a healthy Jackson the past two weeks and he’s rewarded them with 289 yards and two touchdowns combined.

    There’s little doubt that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the offense will again look to Jackson to carry the load this week and to setup quarterback Sam Bradford and the passing game for big plays.

    “You want to keep it going because as the running game goes, I believe this team and this offense goes,” Jackson said. “We need to continue to be productive in that area. I think it will open up things, especially for Sam and the receivers which allows for us to have some big plays.”

    So why, after the running game couldn’t quite get on track in the first part of the season, has it begun to take off?

    The reasons are varied though it starts with Jackson getting back to full strength and being able to again take on a full workload.

    After battling a quadriceps injury suffered on his season-opening 47-yard touchdown run, Jackson has been rounding back into form since the bye week.

    Of course, it hasn’t hurt that the Rams have been able to stay in games and stuck to the run more since they haven’t had to play catch up as much.

    “So far these last two weeks the games have been close, more opportunities to be honest with you,” Jackson said. “The more we can wear on a defense and the game is close or we’re in the lead, it allows for us to pound away at them. Eventually those 4-yard gains in the first quarter become big gashes later on in the game.”

    That’s been one of the hallmarks of Jackson’s career. At his size, it’s not much fun to tackle Jackson when he has a full head of steam early in the game.

    When the Rams are tied or winning, Jackson has rushed 66 times for 383 yards, an impressive average of 5.8 yards per carry.

    But it’s even more difficult late when your tongue is hanging out. This year, Jackson is averaging 5.5 yards per carry in the fourth quarter, rushing 20 times for 110 yards. That sample size might be a bit small since the Rams haven’t had the lead or been close enough to keep running.

    It does show, however, that when Jackson is able to wear down a defense, there are yards to be made in the game’s closing minutes.

    “It’s certainly something that pretty much favors my running style and what I like to do,” Jackson said. “It also allows for us to take advantage of their eight-man boxes that we see a lot. The more you can wear them down on that it kind of makes the safety and those other guys filling in a little late getting there compared to the first quarter.”

    Scheme wise, the success of the run game is also improving as McDaniels gets a better feel for where Jackson likes to get the ball and certain plays that seem to fit his style best.

    Jackson is at his best running right up the middle or stretched to either sideline and the Rams have made more of a concerted effort to get him in those situations.

    “I think the offensive coaches have done a good job with some schemes that we’ve used,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “The offensive line is blocking better in that department. I think we’ve called the game such that we’ve kind of kept people off balance. And certainly the guy running the football helps, too. He’s done a nice job.”

    Jackson’s recent surge can only be viewed as a positive for the rest of the offense as it rounds into form in terms of health.

    Bradford is battling back from an ankle injury and the cast of receivers seems to change every week. If Jackson can continue as the mainstay of the offense, it should help the whole unit find a rhythm for the second half of the season.

    “It’s great when we get the running game going because it makes our play-action that much more effective,” Bradford said. “I think last week there were several times that we were able to take shots down the field because they were anticipating us running the football. I think it’s just a tribute to the guys up front. I think they’ve done a great job the past two weeks of knocking guys off the ball and creating some holes for ‘Jack.’ I think Jack’s done a great job of running extremely hard and finding those holes the past two weeks.”

    Moving forward, Jackson is bearing down on yet another 1,000-yard season, which would be his seventh in a row. As it stands, Jackson is on pace for one of his most productive rushing seasons yet, averaging 5.1 yards per carry through the first eight game.

    If Jackson holds that current pace, he’d set a new career high in that category. As he just seems to pick up steam as the season rolls on, don’t be surprised if the Rams continue to feed the beast.

    “His performance and his leadership and his attitude and his energy have been incredible,” McDaniels said. “As many times as we can give him the ball and let him get going and light it up, that’s obviously been a big positive for us the past few weeks and we have got to continue to do that going forward.”

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Jackson Off to Strong Start
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    When Steven Jackson wakes up on Monday morning, he is always sore. But this year, it’s a good kind of sore as Jackson’s workload has increased to a level that has placed him third in the league in rushing.

    “It feels pretty good,” Jackson said. “I’m fully aware that it’s only week two, so hopefully we can keep making strides and keep ourselves paced through it. This league is a marathon, not a race.”

    While there’s no doubting that Jackson has a long way to go in the NFL’s version of a marathon, there are signs that his good start out of the blocks could keep pace over the course of an entire season.

    After two games, Jackson has run with the combination of power and speed he flashed in his first two seasons in the league. As the game goes on, he gets stronger and he is finishing runs with more authority than in years past.

    “He's certainly one of those type backs, a big punishing type runner and they're harder to tackle if you're able to establish a running game as the game goes on,” head coach Scott Linehan said. “They tend to wear you down a little bit because it's a big guy to tackle.”

    Jackson’s punishing style has him third in the NFL and second in the NFC in rushing yards with 224 on just 44 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. And though his longest run of the season was a 37-yard scamper in the season opener against Denver, Jackson has showed more consistency than in his first two seasons.

    In the win against the Broncos, he rushed six times for 67 yards in the fourth quarter. Even with the Rams trailing in the loss to San Francisco, Jackson punished the ***** late in the game, carrying four times for 27 yards.

    It’s that type of punishing style that has placed Jackson behind only Cincinnati’s Rudi Johnson and Atlanta’s Warrick Dunn in the early race for the rushing title.

    “A lot goes on through the course of the game,” Jackson said. “Average fans don’t realize. You have to have a feel for what the defense is trying to do. Also, you try to wear them down. Coach is calling the plays to see what they are going to do and what formations (they might use) so as the course of the game goes on , I get a feel of what they are doing and I believe the offensive line does, too. With that being said, that’s how I get my big yards later in the game.”

    So, what exactly is it that has allowed Jackson to get off to such a good start? Actually, there are a number of reasons for his early-season success.

    One of those stems from the move of hiring Linehan as the head coach. Upon his arrival, Linehan vowed to give the Rams a more balanced attack with Jackson as the featured attraction.

    In his first two seasons in the league, Jackson had times where he would lose yards as he searched for holes to run...
    -09-22-2006, 05:11 AM
  • MauiRam
    Jackson Carries Rams Into the Light ..
    by MauiRam
    By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer
    Posted 2 hours ago

    It is said that out of darkness will emerge light. How quickly that light emerges depends on whether you move with confidence or tiptoe through the shadows.

    Steven Jackson has never tiptoed through anything in his life. And though it’s taken longer than he would have liked, the eighth-year running back is on the verge of delivering the Rams out of the darkness and into the light.

    It’s a task that many would choose not to take on for enduring the pain that goes with it would be too much for just about anyone to bear.

    Jackson has been called many things in his career but there’s one common nickname he’s been called that he never quite grasped until he took the time during the offseason to wrap his head around it.

    “It’s funny I have been referred to as a beast for quite some time and I said, ‘You know, I am going to look it up. What does the word beast mean?’” Jackson said. “And to give you a quick synopsis of how I look at it and how I thought of it is ‘a mammal that bears the weight of something and transports it.’ I feel like I have been a beast because I bear the weight of some tough times around St. Louis and I have carried it from the days of glory to now hopefully to a new age and a new version of the days of glory. And I have been the particular, chosen one to feel like maybe he’s the one strong enough to bring us through the darkness back to a point where (quarterback) Sam (Bradford) and these younger guys will bring us back to glory.”

    Bearing the weight of an entire franchise’s struggle is a burden Jackson has carried for all of his seven seasons in the NFL. On closer inspection, it’s clear that Jackson’s sacrifice has gone well beyond simply being a part of a losing team.

    In fact, he’s one of the last of his kind in the NFL, a running back willing and capable of taking on a full load in a league that grown more specialized by the season.

    The job of the single running back carrying the load is one thing; the job of the single player carrying the hopes of a franchise on his back is another. Jackson has done both.

    It’s a job Jackson believes he was chosen for, a job he was selected for by powers greater than a general manager or head coach.

    “I think it’s a divine job not for the organization but for me, myself because I never knew some of the strong characteristics and the things that I believe in were within me until I had to go through some tough times,” Jackson said.


    With each passing NFL season, the league evolves and changes in ways that consistently alter the way players and positions are perceived.

    Today, in 2011, the NFL is almost universally viewed as a quarterback’s league, a passing league in which running backs can be found and deployed in a variety of ways and you can...
    -09-07-2011, 10:01 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams' Jackson Says He's Back To '100 Percent"
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams' Jackson says he's back to '100 percent'

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Steven Jackson took the handoff from Sam Bradford, dashed off left tackle behind excellent blocking and didn't stop until he had crossed the goal line 47 yards later untouched. Touchdown, Rams. What a way to start the season.

    The opening day crowd responded with more than just loud applause. There was that tingly sort of electricity in the air, something rarely felt in the Edward Jones Dome in recent years. After the near miss for a playoff berth in 2010, a frenetic free agency period and an unbeaten preseason, Jackson's lightning bolt against Philadelphia heralded the dawning of a new era of Rams football. The dark cloud that had hovered over Rams Park for years was finally lifted.

    Or maybe not.

    Jackson slowed as he approached the end zone. While the Rams' defense was on the field for the next series, Jackson rode a stationary bike on the sidelines. And on his second carry of the day, with a hole big enough to score another touchdown, Jackson limped his way to a 9-yard gain.

    He was done for the day, and done for most of the next month with a pulled quadriceps muscle. Cadillac Williams replaced Jackson the rest of the way against Philly and performed admirably with 91 yards rushing. No disrespect to Williams, but a healthy Jackson might have run for 191.

    That was the game plan that day, to pound away at the undersized Eagles front seven and take advantage of their inexperienced linebacker corps. Maybe the Rams upset Philadelphia with a healthy, rambling Jackson. Maybe that gives them a jolt of confidence, boosting them to a surprisingly fast start against a daunting early-season schedule. We'll never know.

    "You've just got to move forward," Jackson said Thursday. "I do think it would've been truly special, but for whatever reason it was a test for me to go through. And hopefully myself and this team come out on the better end of the test, and we learn something from it."

    The following week, Jackson tested the quad in pregame but couldn't go Monday night in the Meadowlands against the New York Giants. In Week 3, he saw limited duty against Baltimore (four carries). In Week 4, he was close to a full workload (21 touches) against Washington but not close to full health.

    But now, following the bye week, we now return to our regularly scheduled Steven Jackson.

    "It looks like he's ready to go, and excited to have an opportunity to play and really go full steam ahead," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said following Thursday's practice.

    "I think he's been looking pretty good," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "You can ask him. But he looks good."

    Jackson, the running back who never gives percentages when asked...
    -10-14-2011, 04:08 PM
  • MauiRam
    Burwell: Time for Rams to unleash the beast
    by MauiRam
    By Bryan Burwell Sunday, September 19, 2010 12:15 am

    OAKLAND, Calif. • Steve Spagnuolo's coaching DNA comes off the old Bill Parcells strain, an old-school football philosophy that emphasizes nasty, aggressive defense and an offensive style that relies on smart veterans, hands-in-the-dirt power and clock-gobbling ground control.

    So imagine the culture shock that must have occurred in his head last week when he not only put his offense in the hands of a rookie quarterback, but condoned a game plan that involved a lopsided pass/run distribution of 57-to-24. Okay, we know circumstances forced the Rams to be a bit more pass happy than what normally suits Spagnuolo's tastes. But the most surprising aspect of the way things worked for his offense was that Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson was particularly ignored for most of the first half.

    Two carries in the first quarter?

    Eight in the first half?

    That has to change, doesn't it?

    Please tell me that's going to change.

    I am as guilty as most of us of an incurable Sam Bradford obsession. Heck, I am the drum major in his parade. But as good as the kid has shown he can be, and as good an NFL quarterback as we know he will ultimately turn into, the rookie needs a lot of things going the right way if he's going to make this offense work smoothly. One of those things — the most important thing — is a highly productive Jackson.

    When the Rams face the Oakland Raiders Sunday afternoon inside rowdy Oakland-Alemeda Coliseum, the game plan needs to tilt back a bit towards a more balanced run/pass ratio. Jackson needs to be the focus of this offense.

    Every week the Rams play, I am always amazed at the comments I get from smart NFL folks who get an up-close eye full of Jackson's raging running style. A few weeks ago after the Patriots preseason game, I ran into Chris Long's dad, the legendary Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, and when the conversation rolled around to Jackson, Howie had a familiar reaction.

    "Oh man, he's a beast," he gushed. "I love watching that guy run with the football."

    It's amazing how much greater the appreciation for Jackson's unique gifts seem to be outside St. Louis. Knowledgeable football wise guys speak of him in almost reverent terms because of his size and speed and his almost freakishly powerful running style. And I guess unless you have seen Jackson's raw energy up close from an NFL sideline, even the TV replays don't adequately translate what he is doing out there.

    Jackson is a difference maker on this Rams offense, but the plays have to be called to take advantage of his talent. Throughout his career, he has proven that the longer you feed him the stronger he gets.

    I charted his entire career and it's fascinating to see what happens when he is given the ball. Look...
    -09-19-2010, 01:53 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams Want Run Game Revival
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    When the Rams’ season appeared to be in the most dire of straits – playing two games without the use of quarterback Marc Bulger and receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce – they hopped on the only mode of transportation that could carry them to victory.

    Running back Steven Jackson, nicknamed ‘Train’ because of his size and speed, responded by carrying the load against New Orleans and Jacksonville. Even without those Pro Bowl offensive talents, St. Louis found a way to victory on the strength of Jackson’s running, solid offensive line performances and a few timely turnovers on defense.

    After a bye week allowed the aforementioned offensive stars to recover from their injuries, the Rams’ biggest task offensively appeared to be finding the right balance between run and pass. After all, everyone who had longed for a power running game finally got to see what they wanted and it was effective.

    Even with the whole world knowing that Jackson was the Rams’ biggest offensive threat, opponents still couldn’t find a way to stop him. So, it stood to reason that the Rams would stick with Jackson against Seattle last week in another extremely important game. But the running game wasn’t as big a part of the game as many of the players expected.

    “Yeah, (I was) a little bit (surprised) because that kind of was our plan going in to run the ball a little bit more and we had some success but we had a few tackles for losses and that makes it tough on the play calling when you don’t get positive yardage on the running game too,” right guard Adam Timmerman said. “It takes commitment to stick with it and hopefully that’s what it will take down the stretch.”

    After the Jackson got 20 carries in the win against the Saints and 25 against Jacksonville the following week, his total dropped back to 17 against the Seahawks. Entering that game, the Seahawks were 12th in the league against the run, but were also without starting defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs and linebacker Jamie Sharper.

    In addition to the missing defensive pieces, the weather forecast called for rain, meaning that there was a good chance the game would be won on the ground.

    While Timmerman and Bruce expressed surprise at the lack of running game, Jackson actually wasn’t surprised by the slightly lighter load.

    “I kind of expected it,” Jackson said. “We had to get guys back into the groove of things and we wanted to try to stretch them out. We were going against the No. 1 offense and we knew we had to put up points so you can’t expect to run the ball too much.”

    Jackson finished with 17 carries for 70 yards, an average of just over 4 yards a carry. On the surface that would seem to be a more than solid performance, but a part of the reason Jackson’s carries were lessened were the direct of result...
    -11-18-2005, 04:05 AM