For Steven Jackson's entire pro career, he has gone into training camp flanking one man under center: Marc Bulger.
But the Bulger era in St. Louis is drawing towards its conclusion and the Rams look primed to take their next franchise quarterback with the first pick in this year's NFL Draft.
Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford is the expected target of the Rams and multiple reports have gone as far as to guarantee that barring a physical setback, Bradford will be holding up a Rams jersey one month from now at the April 22nd NFL Draft.
When Steven joined the Rams in 2004, Bulger was entrenched as the quarterback. Bulger went on to start 60 games over Steven's five years as the starting running back, with S-Jax flanking him through the ups and the downs. But the stability that the Rams once had at the quarterback position has deteriorated leaving the position and the backfield in flux. Over the last few years the Rams have had eight starting quarterbacks including Bulger, none other than Bulger starting more than five games.
Jamie Martin, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brock Berlin, Gus Frerotte, Trent Green, Kyle Boller and Keith Null have all started at least one game in SJ39's five years as the Rams starting running back. The revolving door has allowed teams to stack the box to eight and sometimes nine, preventing Steven from seeing the type of holes most running backs in the league have the luxury of.
In Bradford, the Rams feel they may have found a capable signal caller to reestablish the passing game and prevent the eight and nine man fronts that S-Jax has become accustomed to. No. 39 posted 1.416 rushing yards last season without the benefit of a strong passing attack. With a heightened air assault, Steven could approach the 2,000-yard plateau that he and his teammates covet.
The biggest test for the Rams pursuit of Bradford is less than a week away at his Oklahoma Pro Day. It is then that Bradford will throw for scouts, with St. Louis atop the list of interested parties, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
"Bradford-to-the-Rams isn't a done deal; the Rams are eager to see Bradford cut loose and air it out on his March 29 Pro Day. "That will be the final test," Rams general manager Billy Devaney said Wednesday in an interview with the NFL Network.
The organization is pleased with the medical reports on Bradford's right shoulder. "Everything up to now, he's passed with flying colors," Devaney said. "The medical reports are excellent. We went through the interview process, and he's an impressive guy. But we, like a lot of people, are really anxious to see Sam throw the football."
Bradford hasn't thrown in public since exiting a game against The University of Texas on October 17th with a shoulder injury. It was the second shoulder injury Bradford suffered lastthe season, so his arm strength, as well as the stability of that shoulder, remain a large question mark.
But the Rams have been pleased with Bradford's makeup. They met with the 22-year old at the NFL Combine earlier this month and also made a trip to Florida for a second meeting, as the Post-Dispatch notes:
"League sources told the Post-Dispatch that general manager Billy Devaney and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur made a trip to Florida at the start of this week to meet with Bradford, who has been training and rehabbing in Pensacola since undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder.
Devaney and Shurmur sat down with Bradford and talked football, and also met with Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery."
Over his three-year collegiate career, Bradford amassed 8,403 yards and 88 touchdowns. He was the 2008 Heisman Trophy Winner and led Oklahoma to that season's BCS National Championship game.
Whether the Rams draft Bradford or not, it is crystal clear that SJ39 is the centerpiece of the St. Louis franchise and the Rams are committed to surrounding Steven with the best talent possible.
Two healthy relationships: Rams-Bradford, Khan-Kroenke (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 21, 2010)
Rams meet with Sam Bradford (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 19, 2010)
Rams meet with Bradford Again (Ramblin' Fan, March 19, 2010)
Another Guarantee for Bradford (Rams Gab, March 23, 2010)