His return to action last Sunday didn’t go as planned, but Steven Jackson is anxious for another chance to impact the Atlanta offense, one he should get on Sunday when the Falcons take on the Carolina Panthers.
“I just wanted to make the best of the opportunities given to me last week,” Steven said this week. “I didn’t get a chance to do so, but I have another week to make an argument for (more carries). At this point, my ability has been proven over time. I just need to get out there and get in the flow of the game.”
Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter noted that Steven’s numbers from last week aren’t an accurate assessment of his playing ability as he attempted to bounce back from a hamstring injury.
“He didn’t really get a chance,” Koetter said. “Steven’s a proven player. He’s a proven player in this league.”
Indeed, Steven’s track record speaks for itself, but recent history also backs up Koetter’s claim. SJ averaged seven yards per carry in Atlanta’s season opening win against the Saints, and his coaching staff knows they have to polish their entire offensive system to get back to that steady production.
With that in mind, and to give No. 39 and the rest of the running game more of a chance this week, Koetter has been putting an extra emphasis on blocking during practice heading into Sunday’s match-up.
“It’s on all of us,” said Koetter. “We’ve got to give our backs a chance. If you’re going to run the football, we’ve got to give them good design in the run game. We’ve got to give them good design of what the plays are. And, at the point of attack, we’ve got to move somebody.”
Due to changes on the offensive line and No. 39’s own injury, Steven’s relationship with his blockers remains a work in progress. But he thinks the rhythm that they’re seeking is getting closer to bearing fruit.
“[Last] Sunday allowed me to continue to work on my chemistry with my offensive line,” S-Jax noted. “We’ve had guys shuffle up front and I haven’t been in there, so we’re still working on our chemistry. They’re getting used to my running style. Dirk [Koetter] is getting used to my running style. So there are a lot of moving parts.”
S-Jax has confidence in himself, and his teammates, as well as the veteran experience to know that the Atlanta’s struggles with the running game are only temporary and he plans on doing anything he can to help turn things around.
“It’s not necessary for me to feel like I need to panic or I need to press I just need to be who I am,” he said. I’ll continue to just work hard and show that, despite what it may look like, my confidence is not shaken.”
Nor is that of the Falcons who, despite a 2-5 start, believe they are close to playing their best football.
“I’m disappointed that we [haven’t won],” SJ said. “But the work we need to put in throughout the week is being done. Now we have to carry it over to Sunday, when it really matters.”
CHALLENGED BY CAROLINA
The Falcons offense will have their hands full on Sunday, squaring off with a Carolina defense led by linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.
The Panthers are the second stingiest rushing defense in the NFL, allowing just 79.3 yards on the ground per game. Steven believes that mirroring Carolina’s physicality will be the key to finding success.
“They are a very aggressive defense,” said Steven.” We have to make sure that we match their intensity. We have to make plays in the running game and then build off of that.”
The Falcons still have nine games remaining on their schedule and S-Jax has been around long enough to know that it only takes one win to gain momentum. If Atlanta can find a way to earn a key divisional victory on Sunday, Steven believes his squad has the experience and talent needed to put together a late season run.
“The thing about this team and this organization is that they’ve had so much success in the past that at any moment, they can get ball rolling,” Steven said. “Get that one or two game winning streak and catch fire. We have people on our team like Osi (Umenyiora), who has been a part of those situations. We just have to get the confidence. We just have to get the wins under our belt.”
The Falcons will travel to Charlotte on Sunday to battle the Carolina Panthers. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff can be seen on FOX.
- Falcons have to match Carolina’s intensity (AtlantaFalcons.com, October 30, 2013)
- Falcons Koetter hopes run game gets going (ESPN.com, October 30, 2013)
- Falcons RB Steven Jackson not ready to ‘panic,’ (Atlanta Journal Constitution, October 31, 2013)
- Falcons’ anemic rushing attack needs a boost (Atlanta Journal Constitution, October 31, 2013)