Steven Jackson’s a Dirty Bird
By Joe Kilroy
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After voiding the final year of his contract in St. Louis and contemplating retirement, Steven Jackson officially signed with the Atlanta Falcons this past Thursday. Although Jackson will be 30 at the start of the upcoming season, he appears to be a good fit within the Atlanta backfield.
In 2012 Jackson racked up 1363 total yards as he surpassed a thousand yards rushing for an eighth consecutive year. His 38 receptions resulted in 321 yards receiving. Jackson’s touchdown totals were lacking, however, as he finished with a career low four trips to the end zone.
While those statistics aren’t all that extraordinary from a fantastical standpoint, they were impressive totals nonetheless for a 29-year old running back that saw his touches reduced through the first half of the season as rookie Daryl Richardson went about making his presence known.
Furthermore, Jackson achieved these totals while surrounded by a cast of young supporting players. None of which have yet proven themselves to be distinguishable talents at the NFL level.
In Atlanta, however, Jackson will be surrounded by a wealth of veteran talent at every offensive skill position on the field. In his quest for a Super Bowl title Tony Gonzalez has pushed off retirement for another season to return as the Falcons starting tight end. And Matt Ryan will be under center throwing to the best receiving tandem in the league comprised of Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Last year, even though he was on his last legs, Michael Turner managed to produce double-digit rushing touchdowns for a fifth consecutive season in Atlanta. He only produced 928 total yards from scrimmage, but he still achieved 11 trips to the end zone. The significant contrast in his 2012 touchdown total versus Jackson’s can be directly attributed to Atlanta having averaged 26.2 points scored per game while the St. Louis Rams posted only 18.7 within the same category.
And why is it the Falcons averaged 7.5 points more scored per game than the Rams? It’s because they are the far more talented offensive team.
What this means for Jackson is that he stands an excellent chance of posting double-digit touchdowns for just the third time in his ten-year career. And it would mark the first time he has done so since recording 16 scores in 2006.
As things currently stand Jacquizz Rodgers is the only back on the Falcons roster that poses any type of significant threat to the number of snaps Jackson will handle on a weekly basis. Last year Rodgers functioned as a third-down / change-of-pace back in a complimentary role to Turner. He finished the season with 94 carries for 362 yards and 1 touchdown. He tacked on another score amongst his 53 receptions for 402 yards.
By comparison Michael Turner handled 222 carries for 800 yards rushing. He also contributed 19 receptions for an additional 128 yards receiving.
Unlike Turner, however, Jackson is a very capable three-down back adept at catching passes thrown his way out of the backfield. This skill set may result in Rodgers seeing less time on the field. If nothing else it should be a clear indication Jackson will handle no less than the 222 carries Turner was given a year ago.
When all is said and done, provided the former St. Louis Ram avoids the injury bug, Jackson is a safe bet to finish within the realm of 1350-1500 total yards, 40-50 receptions, and 8-12 touchdowns. If the soon to be 30-year old still has enough left in the tank to function as a true three-down back his yardage totals could rise by as many as 200-300 yards. It would also open the door for him to record as high as 60 receptions.
Those latter figures, however, are more along the lines of high end projections for the tenth-year vet and not totals I would ultimately value him upon.
Furthermore, from a dynasty perspective, Jackson cannot be viewed as any better than a one-year rental or stopgap solution to an owner in need of help at the running back position. The Falcons signed him to a three-year deal, but it contains no guaranteed money beyond the first season.
And needless to say, contract aside, Jackson’s age is cause for concern as it’s been shown to us time and time again that once a running back reaches 30 his capabilities can drop-off significantly at any point in time.
Read more DFW articles by Joe Kilroy