Steven Jackson made his 2010 season debut on Saturday in the Rams' second preseason game, and though his appearance was brief, he had enough time to show that he was back in Pro Bowl form.
Despite rainy, dreary conditions and a sloppy field, No. 39 got the start for the Rams against the Browns in Cleveland on Saturday. Steven carried four times for 20 yards and was a key cog in a game-opening touchdown drive during St. Louis’ 19-17 win over the Browns.
SJ39 puts the moves on Cleveland this past weekend (St. Louis Post Dispatch).
S-Jax was just happy to be back as a part of the starting squad, however limited, as he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"It felt good to get out there with the first unit, the starting offensive line and have us start to work on the chemistry and the tempo of the game," Jackson said. "It felt really good just to get my feet wet and get banged (around) a little bit."
No. 39 appeared to be in midseason from the get-go and started the game with an 11-yard rumble for a first down. That carry started a 10-play, 65-yard touchdown drive led by Steven, who accounted for nearly a third of the offense during the march, and quarterback AJ Feeley.
Mike of RamsGab summed up Steven’s contributions on the first drive in his RamView column:
"Though his appearance was ever so brief, Steven Jackson (4-20) was back tonight, and that was a good thing. He ran through the Cleveland defense for 11 on his first touch and was very good on blitz pickup, not a small part of the reason the Rams drove for a TD on their first possession, also Jackson’s only drive of the game."
Steven’s recovery from back surgery has been and continues to be a large point of interest this preseason.
No. 39 continues to be pain free in his recovery thanks to months of rehab, a modified training regimen and a new diet. The difference it's made for S-Jax is evident in his play, even in practice. After watching him practice recently, ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell was impressed with what shape Steven is in following surgery:
"For those who are wondering what visible effects these adjustments might be having on Jackson, there is one thing I can attest to after seeing him at the Rams' training camp: The man is in amazing shape. Jackson always has been a physical presence as a running back, standing 6-foot-2 and weighing more than 240 pounds. In particular, he's been very strong in his lower half, making him better able to use his hips and legs to drive through would-be tacklers and drag them along for extra yards. The difference now is in his upper body mass. While Jackson has always maintained excellent physical conditioning, he now appears equally intimidating up top as he has through his legs. The increased strength through his arms and torso is evident and is just as likely to help him dish out punishment as absorb it."
While citing an excerpt from Bell’s column, ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando wrote that he has also been impressed with No. 39 in this camp:
"Jackson is one of the most physically impressive players. His height is unusual for a running back, for starters, and he's put together in a way that qualifies him for "beast" status — even in a league filled with extraordinary athletes."
In her column, Bell also explained the exact procedure that No. 39 underwent and the recovery process:
"Specifically, Jackson underwent a procedure called microdiscectomy, which involves removing the offending disc fragment while minimally disturbing all the other protective tissues (muscles, ligaments, bone) in the area. The goal is to relieve pressure from the nerve root that is causing pain and potentially weakness into the leg. Typical recovery and return to full activity is approximately six to eight weeks, but Jackson's particular line of work is anything but typical. Jackson had to restore his physical strength to the point where he could power through the hole, burst down the field and absorb physical contact (including getting pushed, pulled and twisted) of the NFL variety."
To read more of Bell’s column on Steven, including the plan for counterattack so back problems don’t arise again, click here.
Steven might get an even more extended look on the field this week as the Rams head to the northeast to take on the New England Patriots for their third preseason game on Thursday night.
S-Jax will also be joined in the backfield for the first time by rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, who will make his first start of the preseason in place of Feeley, who suffered a thumb injury during the win over the Rams.
Kickoff of the tilt is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CST. An nationwide replay of the game will be shown at 10 p.m. CST on NFL Network.
Bradford gets more playing time after Feeley injures thumb in Rams win (Belleville News Democrat, August 22, 2010)
Rams’ Jackson is strong in preseason debut (St. Louis Post Dispatch, August 22, 2010)
RamView: Preseason Week 2 RB/WR (Rams Gab, August 24, 2010)
Putting Steven Jackson under the microscope (ESPN.com, August 23, 2010)
Steven Jackson prepared in return from back injury (ESPN.com, August 23, 2010)