On January 20, when New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley was knocked out of the 2013 AFC Championship Game by the Baltimore Ravens’ Bernard Pollard, the game clock showed 12:55 left to play in the fourth quarter.
But in reality, the Patriots’ season ended on that play.
Pollard’s vicious hit on Ridley caused more than a game-changing fumble and an injury to Ridley. It left most Patriots fans in a state of shock, wondering what had gone wrong with a running attack that had improved from 20th in the NFL in 2011 to 7th in the league in 2012.
Suddenly, none of the team’s top-four running backs—Ridley, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden—seemed big enough to compete with the likes of physical teams such as the Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.
And that’s why Steven Jackson could help the Patriots in 2013.
Listed at 6’2” and 240 pounds on his NFL.com player page, Jackson is considerably larger than all of New England’s current running backs. His punishing running style would add a much-needed element of toughness to the team’s offense.
More important, Jackson has a proven record of performance and durability. In his nine seasons with the St. Louis Rams, Jackson has amassed 10,135 rushing yards, 3,324 receiving yards and 64 combined touchdowns. He has averaged 266 carries, 4.2 yards per carry and 1,495 yards from scrimmage per year.
But does Jackson have anything left in the tank?
Jackson is 29 years old, the same age Corey Dillon had reached when the Patriots acquired Dillon in an April 2004 trade with the Cincinnati Bengals. However, Dillon had played only seven seasons in the NFL prior to his move to New England—two fewer than Jackson has played—and he arrived in Foxborough with only 1,865 carries behind him. That’s 530 fewer carries than Jackson has compiled to date.
Despite the wear-and-tear on Jackson’s body, and the fact that he recently told Michael Fabiano of the NFL Network that he may retire rather than play another season, I’m willing to bet the Patriots would take a chance on acquiring him during the upcoming offseason.
For Jackson, the benefits of playing in New England are obvious: he would have a legitimate chance to compete for a Super Bowl title, and his workload could be drastically reduced because of the Patriots’ depth at running back.
At a time when many fans in New England and throughout the NFL are wondering if Tom Brady is past his prime, the addition of Steven Jackson to the 2013 Patriots could help return the team to glory.