Owners who took the risk on Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson should wait at least one more week before they insert him into their lineups with confidence.
There was plenty of hype around Jackson this preseason. He left the land of mediocrity known as St. Louis for what figured to be wide-open running lanes in the high-flying Falcons attack.
Jackson responded with 77 yards on 11 carries and five receptions for 45 yards in Week 1 before he succumbed to a hamstring injury the following week that has left him on the shelf since.
The hiatus was set to end in Week 7 before Fox Sports' Jay Glazer (via Rotoworld) reported that Jackson suffered another setback in practice. Alas, Jackson is now on the comeback trail once more and will practice this week, per the Falcons' official Twitter account:
Coach Smith: We anticipate that Steven Jackson will be participating in practice on Wednesday. #RiseUp— Atlanta_Falcons (@Atlanta_Falcons) October 21, 2013
Good news, but keep Jackson on the bench.
First, and most importantly, this was the story last week before Jackson suffered his setback. Hamstring issues can be a tricky beast, and especially for a running back over the hill at the age of 30. Even if Jackson plays, he managed all of 14 carries this season before the injury.
If Jackson takes the field, remember that one of the most attractive reasons for nabbing him high in drafts was that defenses would be focusing on Julio Jones and Roddy White, which would consequently open up huge lanes for the veteran ball-carrier.
Well guess what? Jones is out for the year and White's status is up in the air after also missing last week and acting as nothing more than a decoy all season.
Not only that, but backup Jacquizz Rodgers is a viable option, which he has shown with a bigger role this season. In six games, Rodgers has 60 carries for 193 yards and two scores, and he has added 25 catches for 155 receiving yards and two additional touchdowns.
To top it all off, the competition is not kind for Jackson when he returns. Week 8 seems like the tentative date, per Glazer, which means the Falcons must go against the Arizona Cardinals, owners of the NFL's No. 7 overall rush defense. They surrender just 97 yards per game on the ground.
If heatlhy, is Jackson worth a start in the next four weeks?
That is not exactly the type of matchup owners should feel confident throwing a 30-year-old injury-prone back into in his first game action in over a month.
There's even a case to be made for Jackson to remain on the bench for three to four weeks, regardless of health. After Arizona, it's a date with Carolina (NFL's No. 4 run defense), Seattle (No. 6) and Tampa Bay (No. 5).
Any way owners want to slice it, all signs point toward the smart move being a wait-and-see approach. At this point for Jackson, who scored only four times in 16 games last year, it's probably more of a "prove it" approach that works best.
For at least Week 8 (and we wouldn't blame you for more), Jackson needs to ride the pine until he shows he is both healthy and effective.
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling