If you're like me, you were cautiously optimistic when you heard that the Atlanta Falcons signed Steven Jackson. While you were excited about Jackson's arrival, you asked whether he was really an upgrade over Michael Turner. I get it. I was with you.
After all, even though Michael Turner's play had deteriorated over the last couple of years, he was still one of the best backs in Atlanta Falcons history. If Falcons' general manager Thomas Dimitroff was going to get rid of a back who did as much for the Falcons as Michael Turner, it stands to reason that such a move would only be justified if it meant acquiring a younger, fresher runner.
Jackson, who was drafted the same year as Turner in 2004, didn't exactly meet that criteria.
However, after watching tape of the ex-St.Louis Rams star in action, I understand why the Falcons believe that they are a better team with Steven Jackson headlining their offensive backfield.
Let's step into the film room and take a look at the evidence that ultimately convinced me Steven Jackson will have a positive impact on the Falcons' offense in 2013.
Jackson Still Has Enough Burst to Explode Through Tight Holes and Finish Runs with Authority
The Falcons have not been able to attack the line of scrimmage on the ground with any consistency the past two seasons. While they still had their share of big plays on the ground, too often it seemed as though running plays were doomed unless the offensive line opened a gaping hole.
Steven Jackson creates space with his powerful running style.
Jackson Will Give Matt Ryan a Reliable Checkdown In The Passing Game
Steven Jackson caught 38 passes for 321 yards last season, while Michael Turner had 19 grabs for 128 yards (60 of which came on one play in Week 4 against Carolina). Jackson is an alert route-runner who knows how to create an outlet for his quarterback and get upfield for YAC once he catches the ball.
With Jackson on board, the Falcons now have three running backs who defenses must account for in the passing game.
Jackson's Cutback Ability Will Add a New Dimension to Atlanta's Ground Attack
Jackson still has tremendous agility for a man his size. We've already seen that he's not afraid to push his way through a hole, but his ability to cut on a dime and explode through holes on the back side should create plenty of big plays for the Falcons.
When defenses are worn out from chasing Jackson, they'll have to deal with another back who's capable of the same type of cutbacks in Jacquizz Rodgers
Jackson Can Occupy Opportunistic Linebackers In Pass Coverage
Jackson's skills in the passing game are not reserved solely for checkdowns. He's a viable receiver on plays designed for him as well. This play against the 49ers from Week 13 provides a good example of how Atlanta can use Jackson out of the backfield to attack disruptive edge-rushers like San Francisco's Ahmad Brooks.
Steven Jackson may be turning 30 before the season starts, but he's never played on an offense like the one he will be a part of in Atlanta.
In addition to Atlanta's electric receiving corps, Jackson's fellow Oregon State Beaver, Jacquizz Rodgers, will arguably be the best running back Jackson has split time with since his days sharing carries with Marshall Faulk early in his career with Rams. Needless to say, Jackson won't have to be the "go-to guy" on offense anymore.
If Jackson retains the elements of his game that we've discussed, the Falcons' offense will soar to new heights in 2013.