Steven Jackson and the St. Louis Rams return to the friendlier confines of the Edward Jones Dome this Sunday to host the Green Bay Packers, and No. 39 will be looking to continue where he left off a weekend ago.
Last Sunday, S-Jax recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of the season against Washington. He should have plenty of opportunities to run on the St. Louis turf. The Packers rank 18th in the NFL in run defense, and last week, allowed Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson to rush for 141 yards.
Steven cracked 100 yards rushing last week. This week: the end zone (StLouisRams.com).
No. 39 is currently averaging 5.2 yards per carry, 6th in the NFL among running backs with at least 30 carries. His 171 rushing yards rank him ninth in the NFL despite just 33 carries, fewer than seven of the nine backs that rank ahead of him.
As Bryan Burwell writes for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the stats shake out to say one thing: Steven still isn't getting the ball enough.
"If this Rams team is going to continue to climb up that stairwell to respectability, the smartest way to do that is to rely heavily on the one dynamic offensive weapon they have, Jackson. Spagnuolo talked about emphasizing the positives from last week's game, and one of those positives were the three offensive drives that had at least 10 plays. The obvious magic of those drives was the effective use of Jackson, who gets stronger and better the more you use him. So far after two games though, he's only carried the ball 16 and 17 times. That's not enough, not nearly enough."
As the Associated Press reported this week, S-Jax agrees with Burwell's sentiment:
"I'm kind of like a streaky 3-point shooter," Jackson said Thursday. "The more I get a chance to touch the ball, the more I get a feel for what the defense is trying to do. It allows me to get that good lather and kind of get downhill and take advantage of the fatigue on defense."
Still Rams coaches would not commit to a set number of carries for No. 39, just to try to get the ball in his hands more often, as quoted by Burwell.
"I don't know that we have a targeted number," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said Monday. "(But) we would certainly like to feed him the football in different ways. That is true, but no targeted number."
According to Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, the end goal is to make Steven the focal point of the offense, as quoted by The Associated Press:
"He needs to be the focus of this team and this offense," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "We're constantly going to make an effort to get him the football."
WAITING HIS TURN
Though he wants the ball badly, S-Jax is waiting patiently for his opportunity and plans to run with it, as quoted in the Belleville News-Democrat:
"The coaching staff has to get to know its personnel,'' Jackson said. "Kind of the same story, but we have to allow our offensive staff and offensive coordinator to learn our personnel and see how guys react and what their bodies can take.
"Until we get to that comfortable understanding with one another, I just have to go out there and take advantage of the carries and receptions I do get.''
SHOW OF RESPECT
As the Rams get ready to take on the Packers, Green Bay also has 39 on the mind.
Former Ram and current Packer Ryan Pickett believes that Green Bay may face no more talented back this year than S-Jax, as quoted in the Green Bay Press Gazette:
"He reminds me of Adrian Peterson," said Pickett, who played with Jackson in 2004 and ’05. "I think he's underrated; his team hasn't had a good record, so maybe that's (why). But he does everything (Peterson) does. He can cut it back on a dime. He starts fast. He's big, strong, powerful, hard to tackle. He's one of the better backs in the league to me."
Also in the Press-Gazette, a scout tells Pete Dougherty that S-Jax will pose the biggest threat to Green Bay's chances of winning on Sunday:
"He's the guy that scares you because he can run and catch it so well," one scout said. "You have to wrap him up — half tackles aren't going to cut it, you have to get guys flying to the ball and make sure he's surrounded or else he's going to do some damage."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that Steven should have a lot more rushing yardage than he does, but several of his best runs have been called back or cut short by penalties.
"Even with relatively limited touches (37) in a struggling offense, St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson still ranks ninth in the NFC in yards from scrimmage (186). But he’d be near the top had the Rams’ mistake-prone offense been able to avoid penalties."
Thomas notes four specific runs on which Steven was robbed of yardage, the biggest being a potential 66-yard touchdown brought back by a false start last week in D.C.
To read Thomas' Rams Report notes on No. 39, click here.
SANDO ON STEVEN
ESPN.com NFC West blogger has a few breakdowns this week that might be of interest to fans of No. 39. On Tuesday, Sando broke down Steven's 58-yard run against the Redskins in 10 steps. A sampling:
"The Rams were operating from what offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur calls their "zebra" personnel package with three wide receivers, one tight end and Jackson alone in the backfield. This left the Redskins with only two linebackers on the field."
Sando also delved into the use of Steven by the Rams last week in his weekly Personnel Report:
"The problem through two games has less to do with Jackson than with the offense overall. The Rams are averaging 20 percent fewer offensive plays this season than they averaged in 2006, about 13 snaps per game. Jackson has carried or caught the ball on 34.5 percent of the Rams' offensive plays, down from 40.9 percent in 2006."
If you ask No. 39, there's one thing above all others that St. Louis needs to do to win their first game of the season on Sunday, as quoted by the Belleville News-Democrat:
"We're able to sustain drives,'' Jackson said. "In the Washington game — I know we're not supposed to look back — we had three drives with over 10 plays. We're converting on third downs, we're moving the ball. Now we just have to overcome the penalties and stuff we have been doing to ourselves. Take care of the ball, and when we get in the red zone, hopefully get seven points out of it. Or, at least three.
"It does come to down to execution. Not things the defense is taking away from us, but (things) we are taking away from ourselves.''
"At this point, I'll play at Wash U.,'' Jackson said of the Division III school (Washington University) located in St. Louis. "I just want to get a win.''
The Rams and Packers kickoff from Edward James Dome in St. Louis at Noon CST on Sunday. Chris Myers and Former Rams quarterback Trent Green have the call on FOX.
Steven Jackson asks for more opportunities (Belleville News-Democrat, September 25, 2009)
Steven Jackson looks for more carries in St. Louis Rams offense (ESPN.com, September 25, 2009)
Once first, Now last (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 2009)
0-2 feels different this year (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 23, 2009)
Penalties have cost Jackson lots of yardage (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 2009)
Run defense looks to rebound vs. Rams' Jackson (Green Bay Press-Gazette, September 24, 2009)
Scouting report on the Rams (Green Bay Press-Gazette, September 22, 2009)
Jackson's 58-yard run in 10 quick steps (ESPN.com, September 22, 2009)
Personnel Report: Jackson and Rams offense (ESPN.com, September 25, 2009)