Steven Jackson may not be in the St. Louis Rams' backfield after having been there since 2004.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com:
To that end, the potential of Jackson not being present for Sam Bradford and Co. certainly affects the St. Louis offense. Here, we take a look at what the Rams can expect provided they end up parting ways with the veteran running back.
Defenses Blitz More
Jackson is a complete back. And that includes pass protection, slipping out for screens and beating linebackers in zone or man coverage underneath and into the flat.
In short, that overall skill set prevents a defense from bringing the house quite often. Mainly because a blocking back obviously picks up the blitz, and attacking more makes a defense vulnerable in coverage.
Therefore, everything at the short and intermediate level receives more emphasis, which leaves a back free to get open on checkdowns. With two young backs in Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead, it's reasonable to expect St. Louis getting additional man coverage and spy linebackers who blitz.
That aspect won't allow the backs to slip free as much, since keeping Bradford off the ground takes priority. After all, St. Louis still has offensive line concerns with pass protection, and opponents should blitz to try and force numerous ill-advised throws.
Quicker Developing Plays
One way to negate the extra pressure a defense may put on Bradford is with faster-developing plays.
Not so much screens as the Rams need slants, pop-passes and fades. Bradford possesses solid enough accuracy to make every NFL throw, it's just a matter of reducing the defense's aggression.
St. Louis offers an array of receiving targets to make plays downfield, so continuing to provide opportunities will, at some point, force a defense to back off. And when a defense does pull back the reigns, that is when the quick-hitting ground attack can take over.
Here, that involves Richardson and Pead in a split-back set with Bradford under center or shotgun. Both have dual-threat ability, so, dives, tosses, direct snaps and counters will impact offensive production.
From an all-encompassed perspective, St. Louis can become more balanced, but not in the traditional I-formation/off-set fullback approach.
Various Personnel Formations
With two dynamic ball-carriers, the Rams can get a bit creative regarding formations. Obviously, the split-back set works well with Richardson and Pead. In addition, finding mismatches based on the game situation does favor St. Louis thereafter.
Keeping two dynamic players in the backfield generally draws a defense to go with a base look. Well, the Rams could mix it up between three receivers, two receivers and a tight end, or two tight ends, and a receiver.
For as obvious as this may appear, the threat of two capable backs allows the Rams to spread a defense out while not sacrificing speed, size and power for quickness and acceleration. Three receivers can all beat man coverage while the backs present a threat to leak out underneath.
Elsewhere, both can slam up the middle when any number of tight ends are in as well. Without Jackson, St. Louis will simply have to adjust, but it won't be a significant hit to production.
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