Steven Jackson: Breaking Down the St. Louis Rams' Ultimate Weapon
The 2012 season marks the beginning of Steven Jackson's ninth season as an NFL running back. His eight years in the NFL has seen him amass 2,138 carries, 9,093 yards rushing and 60 end-zone appearances.
Not to be forgotten, he is the Rams' all-time leading rusher, he has appeared in the Pro Bowl three times and he has been selected to the NFL All-Pro team twice. All of these are great individual goals that will be forever tied to him, yet it's unfortunate that as a pro he's suffered defeat over 90 times.
When Mike Martz left town in 2005, seemingly so did all the wins. Poor drafting and poor personnel moves have plagued the Rams for the last six-to-eight years. When things fall apart and stay apart, it's hard to keep a positive attitude, but no one has done it better than Jackson.
As Jeff Fisher and Les Snead embark on a new adventure, they will be counting on Jackson if they want success to follow. So, let's take a look at what has made Steven the Rams' ultimate weapon ever since he arrived in 2004.
When there is a will there is a way. Just ask Steven Jackson. In his eight-year career, he's never been a part of a team that had more than eight wins, and his lone playoff experience was during his rookie season in 2004.
But that hasn't stopped him from competing and giving his all every snap. There comes a point in the season when playoff hopes are lost, and the only thing you can play for is respect. It feels like Jackson has spent his whole career playing for respect.
He plays every game with honor, dignity and class, which is also known as the right way.
In the video clip above, the Rams are 0-7 and fighting for their first win of the season against the Detroit Lions. There's under two minutes to play, and the score is tied 10-10. The Rams need to at least get into field-goal range to setup kicker Josh Brown, so who do they call on? Jackson of course.
And without a doubt, he answers the call in a big way with a 17-yard run right up the middle. Not to mention, he takes out the official and drags Lions defenders on his way to the 25-yard line. St. Louis went on to score the go-ahead touchdown to seal their first and only victory of the 2009 season.
Jackson finished the season with 1,416 yards rushing on a 1-15 football team, pretty incredible when you look at the fact every run was against an eight-man front.
There's no question SJ39 has the heart of a champion.
There are few running backs built like the Oregon State product. At 6'2", 248 pounds, Jackson's mean, punishing running style has made hundreds of defenders pay for getting in his way. With Jackson best being known for his old school, downhill running approach, it's often forgotten that he ran in the high 4.4s at his college pro day.
While it's safe to assume his speed has probably diminished a little since entering the league, this highlight from Week 1 of the 2011 season proves he's still faster than a majority of the defenders in the NFL.
On this play the Rams are in 12 personnel, two tight ends, two wide receivers and one running back. This is St. Louis' first play from scrimmage. They are looking to catch the Eagles sleeping on a cutback run.
As Jackson takes the handoff, he approaches the right side of the offensive line, but then as soon as he sees No. 76 Rodger Saffold seal off the defensive end, he plants and cuts it back up the left side of the field for a 42-yard touchdown.
This play is a perfect example of when you hear someone say, "the running back made one cut and he was gone."
If you take the time to look back at some of the most successful running backs in NFL history, it's easy to see few possessed elite track speed, but most possessed great vision and patience. These are two key attributes that have helped Jackson become one of the league's elite backs over the last decade.
Being patient is no easy task as plenty of running backs often out run their blocks or even worse, run right into the back of their offensive linemen. Just because a player is fast, doesn't mean he has to be up to full speed as soon as he takes the hand off.
By waiting for your blocks to develop, success may greet you in the form of a touchdown. A perfect example of that is shown in the video clip above.
Jackson takes the hand off from Sam Bradford, quickly sidesteps a defender in the backfield and then slows his roll as he sees a hole developing along the right side. And as soon as No. 77 opens that hole, he's gone down the sideline for six points.
Steven makes this run look almost too easy and routine, yet isn't that what the great ones do?
Is there really anything better than seeing a running back deliver a violent stiff-arm? Some of the best to ever use the stiff-arm include Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Earl Campbell. It's a maneuver that has been around since the beginning of football, yet I feel like it's under utilized.
However, Steven Jackson uses it frequently as it has helped him abuse and embarrass defenders by sending them straight to the ground. The run above is one of the most violent stiff-arms I've ever seen Jackson use. You know you've made a good move when your stiff-arm lays the player out flat on his face.
This play is a simple 1st-and-10 run out of 12 personnel. Pay close attention to the timing on Jackson's stiff arm and the way he uses it to keep space between him and the defender. He never gets premature with the stiff-arm by putting it out early, and he always reloads when he goes back a second time.
If he were to keep the arm out longer it wouldn't be as effective. The effectiveness comes from the force behind it. Jackson is so strong and powerful, so he wants to get as much momentum behind it as possible.
If you like the stiff-arm as much as I do, check out this NFL Films video on the history of the stiff-arm.
The last and probably least taken advantage of characteristic Jackson has to offer would be his spin move. It's not a move that you see him pull out all that often, yet when he does pull it out, it's very effective and impressive, especially considering how big he is.
A man that big is not supposed to have feet that allow him to move that quick.
As he gets down to the 32-yard line, watch as he lowers his head in anticipation. He knows the hit is coming, but it's almost as if he's thinking one step ahead of the defender.
As No. 28 comes flying in, Jackson has already started his initial spin. By the time the defender actually makes contact with him, Jackson is already half-way around. You can see this by pausing it at the 10-second mark on the video.
The fact that Jackson was one step ahead of the defender allowed him to pick up an additional 15 yards after contact. Last season he gained 663 yards after contact, which was more than half of his 1,145 yards rushing.