As the NFL lockout winds on, it's a certainty that Steven Jackson is gnawing at the bit to get back on the field with his teammates.
The Rams are scheduled to open up the season at home on September 11th against the Philadelphia Eagles, as they look to make a run at the NFC West title that just eluded them last season.
Steven is anxious to get back to work on improving the Rams for 2011 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
April's draft brought help for Steven and his teammates in that quest, as the Rams hooked a pair of wide receivers and a tight end in the first four rounds. The improvements were just what No. 39 was seeking heading into the draft.
"I think right now, while I'm still young and jubilant, that I still have the ability to carry this team and carry the load," Steven told 101 ESPN St. Louis prior to the draft. "Basically, I know we would like to spread the responsibility of that to help lengthen my career, but right now, I think we have so many other needs that finding someone to spell me for five or six plays a game, I would rather let's go get some more help on the outside, some more skill players and some more guys on defense to help this team come along while I am still able to youthfully do my job at a high level."
The Rams opened the draft by stabilizing the defensive side of the football with defensive end Robert Quinn out of North Carolina. Over the next three rounds St. Louis grabbed tight end Lance Kendricks out of Wisconsin and wide receivers Austin Pettis and Greg Salas from Boise State and Hawaii respectively.
"Hopefully spreading the ball around, having more weapons and having the zone blocking scheme we will run will help out the running game," SJ39 said. "That helps more than having a backup to me. I won't see eight-man boxes, which relieves the stress of me fighting an uphill battle for four quarters for 16 weeks."
Vic Carrucci of NFL.com recently elaborated on how the Rams' draft weekend approach will compliment Steven:
The Rams clearly went out of their way to stock up on pass-catchers, using three of their first four picks on a tight end and a pair of wide receivers. But it would be wrong to conclude that they view their running game as a mere afterthought.
The Rams still will make every effort to get ample production from running back Steven Jackson, because he still has ample production to give. And when the time comes, they also can be expected to make a fairly strong push in free agency for a complementary back, such as speedy Darren Sproles.
I've heard from multiple Rams followers who are concerned that new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is going to be so consumed with making his mark on the passing game that the rushing attack — and the offense as a whole — will ultimately suffer.
Based on all of the feedback I have received from in and around the team, nothing could be further from the truth. The organizational thinking, as set forth by coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney, calls for balance to be an offensive priority. Spagnuolo's defensive roots make it natural for him to want the offense's efforts to align with the ability to have success on the other side of the ball. The rest of the NFC West teams might not have as promising a quarterback as the Rams do, but their offenses still must be stopped if St. Louis is to realize the full benefit of Bradford's talent.
The Rams' schedule features two Monday Night football games this year, against the Giants in Week 2 and the Seahawks in Week 14, shining a prime time light on SJ39 and his teammates. Steven is as ready as he has ever been to get back to work with his team.
"I look forward to seeing guys grow," he told ESPN Radio. "That's where I'm at now, trying to be a leader on and off the field to help these guys with their learning curve so we can get to some division titles and hopefully win a conference championship and get to a Super Bowl a little bit faster than people think.
"I've seen some of the darkest days around here, and in those times of need I tried to be that light; give our fans something to cheer about, give them something to believe about. I think it's only right I should be able to stick around and see some of the glory days as well."
AMONG THE BEST
There's no question that Steven ranks among the best in the game.
NFL Network has set out to give a definitive rank to the best this offseason. Every Sunday for the next month, the network is counting down its Top 100 players of the coming season.
49ers linebacker Patrick Willis has much respect for what SJ39 can do on the gridiron (Getty Images).
Steven has yet to appear on the list, which counts down numbers 60-51 this weekend, but NFL.com released a bonus video where Patrick Willis of the 49ers explains why he ranks S-Jax among the game's best backs.
"You always say ‘how do you know if you're the best if you're not playing against the best?' Steven Jackson is certainly one of the best running backs in this game to me," Willis said. "He can find a hole and he can run outside or inside. For a big guy, most people thing they want to be inside, but he can jump-cut and his jump-cut is unbelievable. It's almost like LaDanian Tomlinson's and LaDanian Tomlinson is way smaller…You have to make sure you don't pursue too hard because he can cut it back in a heartbeat."
To watch Willis talk more about SJ39, click here.
KEEP UP WITH STEVEN
Steven is keeping himself busy this offseason, but through his social networks, SJ39 is making sure that fans can stay connected to him.
Don't forget to follow Steven on Twitter and like his Facebook Fan Page to join the lively discussion with SJ39. Follow along as S-Jax posts photos, like this one with Mike Karney (at left), and takes his fans inside his day-to-day life.
Jackson shouldn't get lost in Bradford shuffle (NFL.com, May 12, 2011)
Jackson still wants to carry the load (101 ESPN, April 19, 2011)
Schedule for 2010-2011 season (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 20, 2011)