Well-rested after the bye week, Steven Jackson and the St. Louis Rams return to action this Sunday when they host the undefeated New Orleans Saints at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
The Rams enter Sunday's matchup riding high after their first week of the season and they'll have to go through one of the NFL's best teams to keep the good vibes rolling.
At Rams Gab, a St. Louis Rams blog, Mark Peterson argues that S-Jax is the number one reason that the Rams can think victory:
The St Louis Rams have the #1 running back in the NFL. Steven Jackson has run the ball 165 times for a total of 784 yards. He finally obtained his first TD of the year against the Lions and now he is hungry. Hungry like a ravenous cheetah after its first taste of blood. Hungry like the soulless vampire as the sun begins to set above the first full moon. Hungry as… well, you get my point. Year to date, Jackson has had more rushing attempts and more yards gained than both Mike Bell and Reggie Bush combined.
The last time Steven and his teammates played the New Orleans Saints, two years ago in New Orleans, No. 39 rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown. S-Jax also passes for a touchdown on a trick play to Randy McMichael. The Rams went on to win 37-29. SJ has rushed for 188 yards in three career games against the Saints.
In a conference call with New Orleans reporters this week, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo was asked about what Steven brings to the team. Spagnuolo let the reporters know that No. 39 gives St. Louis a chance to win every week:
"He got himself in great shape. It all begins in the off-season. He did that. He committed to getting his body right. We knock on wood. Hopefully he stays that way, but he feels fresh right now and hopefully we can take advantage of that. He’s a key to a lot of what we do. Marc (Bulger) does a nice job of spreading the ball around and I think that helps Steven a little bit. Steven has a great offensive line in front of him or an offensive line that’s coming together I should say. A little bit young in some areas. They like blocking for him and I know Steve likes running the football."
KEEPING GOOD COMPANY
As Steven continues to produce yardage at a torrid pace this season, he's bringing his name into a conversation involving the NFL's all-time great running backs.
At CBSSports.com, Cameron Holloway reports on No. 39's run at the record books:
Jackson, 26, has started 57 games in his career (he has missed nine games to injury and was a backup to Marshall Faulk most of his rookie season). In the history of the NFL, among players who have started 57 or fewer games before turning 27, Jackson is No. 1 in career rushing yards, with 6,075 — and he has eight more games before turning 27 in July.
Take out the games-started criteria, and Jackson is 18th all-time in rushing yards through his age-26 season, again with eight games to go.
If he were to match his first half of 784 yards in the second half, he would climb to 10th on that list, bumping Faulk. The top 10 is a who's who of NFL backs: Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Jim Brown, Jerome Bettis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Eric Dickerson and Faulk.
Rams quarterback Marc Bulger told Holloway that he believes Steven merits more recognition for his accomplishments:
"I just wish we were winning more games so the whole league and country could see how great a player he is," quarterback Marc Bulger said of the Rams, who are 1-7. "Everyone knows it, but he flies under the radar because of that. If we can start winning some games I think he'll start getting the recognition he deserves."
Rams running backs coach Sylvester Croom, a longtime coach who has worked with some of the NFL's great back gives S-Jax a high measure of praise:
"I've talked to Steven about being more of a Walter Payton type. Walter could do anything, and so can Steven. It's rare to find a man Steven's size (6-feet-2, 235 pounds) who can line up wide and run routes. We try to get him the ball out in space. Steven's developed into a complete player."
To read the entire story which delves further into Steven's development as a player and a leader, click here.
At ESPN's NFC West Blog, Mike Sando breaks down the Rams at midseason and notes that No. 39 is the best reason for a positive outlook:
"Jackson gives the Rams their best chance at being competitive. He has four 100-yard rushing games and a 4.8-yard average per carry even though defenses have little else to fear from the Rams' offense."
Steven will look to continue his career-best season on Sunday when the Rams and Saints kickoff at noon in St. Louis and all the action can be seen on FOX.
Matured Jackson piling up big yardage, respect in shadows (CBS Sports, November 10, 2009)
Midseason Report: Rams (ESPN.com, November 11, 2009)
Week 10: Rams vs. Saints (Rams Gab, November 12, 2009)
Rams will try to march with unbeaten Saints on Sunday (Belleville News-Democrat, November 10, 2009)
Steve Spagnuolo Conference Call Transcript (NewOrleans.com, November 10, 2009)