The first preseason game of 2009 brought limited action for the St. Louis Rams starters, especially Steven Jackson.
But in just two carries, Steven showed a glimpse of what the league can expect out of a healthy S-Jax this season.
No. 39 made the most of his two carries, collecting 15 rushing yards, including a 13-yard run that ended his short night on a high note.
The run came on St. Louis’ second possession of the game. Steven took the handoff from Marc Bulger at the Rams 20 and burst through a hole in the line. At the second level, SJ cut right to avoid one defender, then back left to allude another, rumbling to the 33 before being tripped up by his foot.
Steven relaxes during the Rams first preseason game (courtesy StLouisRams.com).
However short, Steven enjoyed his first preseason action since 2006, as quoted in the Belleville News-Democrat:
"Week 1, we expected to get a feel for the game, get a feel for how things are going to go this year,” Jackson said. "As the preseason goes along, the carries and the workload will get a little heavier."
The Rams went on to win 23-20 thanks to a 77-yard touchdown run by one of Steven’s backups, Samkon Gado.
With the Rams trying to rebuild after two losing seasons, the win was meaningful to Steven, as quoted in the News-Democrat:
"Some people say it means nothing, but here after the last couple of years, it means everything," Jackson said.
Steven was so committed to the cause that he even recorded a tackle on defense.
"Especially in the preseason, when you’re playing a lot of your young people, it’s good to see that they were able to come out with the win," running back Steven Jackson said. "Create turnovers. We were able to protect the ball on offense. That’s what you want to see."
BREAKING THE CYCLE
Prior to Friday’s game in New York, Steven was amped up at an abnormally high level for a preseason game, but Steven looked at the first action of the year as more than that, as quoted in the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
"I’m really excited to see what this ’09 team has," Jackson said before Friday’s game. "I think over the last several months, OTAs till now, we’ve really worked on changing the identity of this team. And I think Friday will show where we’re at so far in this early season."
According to No. 39, everything changes "under the lights" whether it is in a preseason game or during the regular season, as quoted in the Belleville News-Democrat:
"In practice and OTAs, you kind of buy into what is going on, and you are working different techniques, but when those lights come on, some guys tend to get away from what they’ve been taught," Jackson said. "You just want to make sure that you are fundamentally sound. I think Friday that is what we are going to look for. Make sure guys are competing and making sure that guys are staying true to what is being taught around here now."
In the same story in the Belleville News Democrat, Steve Korte reports that the Rams running backs have come up with an interesting way to pass the time in camp.
"Jackson said the Rams running backs have tried to break the monotony of training camp by taking every carry to the end zone instead of stopping as soon as the whistle sounds.
"Training camp can get a little old at times, and we’re looking to challenge ourselves in other ways, and that’s one of the ways we came up with in our running back room," Jackson said."
The only Rams running back that got a chance to take it to the end zone on Friday was Gado, who S-Jax praised prior to the game:
"He’s a very versatile guy," Jackson said of Gado, a fourth-year player who has served previous stints with Green Bay, Houston and Miami. "He’s very impressive. I think as a fullback and as a halfback, he’s an asset, and he’s a smart guy. He has a lot to think about.
"When he gets to fullback, his mindset has to change. We have to make sure we’re communicating out there and making sure he knows what position he is at. But, he’s having a great camp."
Steven endured a scare early on in camp when rookie linebacker Chris Chamberlain read a screen play and knocked Steven down with a vicious hit.
The big hit didn’t cause an injury, but it did catch No. 39 off guard.
"At first, it kind of threw me for a surprise," Jackson said. "It’s definitely quite a shock."
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, after watching the season flash before his eyes, implored Chamberlain to stay hih when he hits on Jackson, instead of going so low. To S-Jax though, it was just a part of camp.
"It happens in football," he said. "He got a little low. But it’s understood. It was an accident. It wasn’t anything done intentionally."
At the Rams’ official website, Nick Wagoner has a feature about Steven’s progression as a player and a person. In the piece, S-Jax says the thing he’s stressing most in 2009 is leadership:
"My biggest goal now is just trying to be a leader, especially help out the young guys and the receiving corps," Jackson said. "I am just trying to be an all around captain for the offense and set my example on the practice field and put in the work."
BREAKING DOWN THE RAMS
At ESPN, NFL Analyst John Clayton breaks down the Rams and, as can be expected, the focal point of his analysis is No. 39:
"Jackson should have a monster season. As a running back, Jackson is a machine. He’ll average more than 4 yards a carry and he’ll catch between 43 and 90 passes a season."
Also at ESPN, NFC West columnist Mike Sando issues his camp confidential column on the Rams
For his column, Sando spoke with former Baltimore Raven Jason Brown, who was signed this offseason by the Rams, about blocking for Steven:
"I’ve had the privilege of playing with Jamal Lewis, Willis McGahee and a fullback, LeRon McClain, last year," Brown said. "Even after all those years, our offensive line when we were in Baltimore, whenever we would see St. Louis Rams film and we would see Steven running the ball, our jaws would drop and we would say, ‘Oh my God.’ "
"Not to take anything away from the running backs that we had at the time, but we would drop our jaws in awe saying, ‘I just wonder what it would be like if we could interchange and have him just for one Sunday.’ But now, I’m privileged and I’m blessed enough to have him every Sunday."
Jackson’s main goal: Leadership (StLouisRams.com, August 5, 2009)
St. Louis Rams defeat Jets in preseason opener (St. Louis Post Dispatch, August 15, 2009)
Rams rally to take down Jets (Belleville News-Democrat, August 15, 2009)
Jackson is eager to get under the lights (Belleville News-Democrat, August 13, 2009)
Jackson eager to see how "new" Rams perform vs. Jets (Rams Report, Aug 12, 2009)
St. Louis Rams’ Jackson adjusts to new coach’s tough camp (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 6, 2009)
Camp Confidential: Spagnuolo takes charge (ESPN.com, August 13, 2009)
NFL: Coach Steve Spagnuolo trying to toughen up St. Louis Rams (ESPN .com, August 6, 2009)