With the emergence of Sam Bradford, hope for the future travels through the halls of Rams Park. With every performance of the young franchise quarterback, there is enough juice or electricity to light up the hallways of the Russell Training Center. But with all the excitement stirring up huge predictions for the 2010 season, the workhorse that will carry the load is SJ39, Steven Jackson.
This physical and talented running back led the NFC with 1,416 yards, and started fifteen games while dealing with disc issues in his lower back. He displayed toughness and the heart of a true warrior. The two time Pro Bowl running back and All Pro selection is a true threat for defenses and makes for some long nights for defensive coordinators game planning efforts to defeat or slow down Jackson each and every Sunday.
After his back surgery, SJ39 reshaped his physique, dropping weight while adding muscle during the off season. His chiseled frame stands 6’2 242 pounds with only 5% body fat. Changing his workout regimen this off season, lifting twice a day once in the morning and afternoon, with running sessions and agility drills between. He even swam with sharks as part of his conditioning – I’m kidding! He did swim with sharks but not for conditioning, while vacationing in Africa and taking in some World Cup Soccer action.
Jackson has shown for several years that he is a quality all-purpose back in the NFL. His job again this season is carry the rock and shorten the game while helping the young quarterback in play action situation and pass protection.
A versatile running back, he has polished his skill set as a runner, receiver and blocker. He led the NFL in yards from scrimmage from 2006-2009, with 123.0 per game. The stats speak for this workhorse. In 55 games 1,379 touches from the line of scrimmage he gained 6,766 yards which is the best in the NFL. Last season SJ39 averaged 115.9 yards from scrimmage which led the NFC and ranked him third in the NFL. I always admired his skill set and talent from a far as college scouting director with the Carolina Panthers, even when he played for Dennis Erickson at Oregon State, another Washington native and friend.
When I arrived in St. Louis in 2006, I evaluated his practice habits, desire and found he truly loves this game, and the production he put up in 2006 season was exceptional (2,334 yards from scrimmage, fifth highest in NFL history, 1,528 yards rushing on 346 attempts and 13 touchdowns along with 90 catches ranking him sixth in NFL history for running backs). He had and will always have my respect as a personnel man.
The 2010 season will be meaningful and a goal setting season for this all-purpose running back. Jackson currently ranks third on the all-time rushing list behind Eric Dickerson (1983-87) 7,245 and Marshall Faulk (1999-2005) 6,959. He needs only 539 yards to become the Rams All-Time leading rusher, and he will get those numbers.
Even on a poor football team in 2009, Jackson put this underachieving and young football team on his back and was among the league rushing leaders, winning the NFC rushing crown, finishing second in the NFL with 1,416, and finished fifth in NFL with 1,738 yards from line of scrimmage.
Bradford will need SJ39 to be himself and continue to produce the numbers he has in the past. For that to happen, Jackson to stay healthy. Something tells me SJ39 will stay on the same path that will hopefully land him and his teammates on the road to winning ways.
Some people want everything, but in this case a true champion, consistent professional that handles his business, only wants a chance at the Big Boy Ring which comes along with hosting the Lombardi trophy. With the Big Easy (Sam Bradford) aboard, a special tandem has been formed for the very near future. There will never be another “greatest show on turf “, this team must forge its own distinction, name and fortune and Bradford along with SJ39 will play a huge part in that success.