As Rams fans, we all know that Steven Jackson is one of the best running backs in the NFL. When the national media will start to take notice of the fact that SJ is tied with Adrian Peterson for the third-most rushing yards in the league this season with 784, I don't know. Cameron Hallway of CBS Sports is off to a good start with a great piece on SJ up, and it's certainly worth a read.
What I found most interesting in the piece are some statistics that point to just how good SJ is:
Jackson, 26, has started 57 games in his career (he has missed nine games to injury and was a backup to Marshall Faulk most of his rookie season). In the history of the NFL, among players who have started 57 or fewer games before turning 27, Jackson is No. 1 in career rushing yards, with 6,075 -- and he has eight more games before turning 27 in July.
Take out the games-started criteria, and Jackson is 18th all-time in rushing yards through his age-26 season, again with eight games to go.
If he were to match his first half of 784 yards in the second half, he would climb to 10th on that list, bumping Faulk. The top 10 is a who's who of NFL backs: Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Jim Brown, Jerome Bettis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Eric Dickerson and Faulk.
If that doesn't impress you, I don't know what will. The rise of Steven Jackson as a top-tier running back has certainly been fun to watch. To me, he has become the most complete running back in the league, with the ability to do virtually whatever he wants on the field.
SJ's performance so far this season should tell you all need to know about the kind of running back he is. Every defense he faces knows what is coming, and they still can't stop him. Against Detroit in the fourth quarter, for example, he single-handedly won the football game:
With the outcome in the balance in the fourth quarter at Detroit, Jackson had nine carries for 82 yards, including a 25-yard TD burst that was the winning score. Big chunks: 7 yards, 11, 10, 5, 17, 25 ... only two of the nine carries gained less than 5 yards.
What's been most satisfying about his success this season is the fact that he has finally emerged as a true team leader, something he did not show in previous seasons:
As the Rams have loaded up around Jackson, he has reciprocated by becoming accountable as a leader, a trait the team didn't know he had before this season. Jackson has been quick to praise teammates, unwilling to gauge his success in light of the team's struggles, is a full-fledged believer in first-year coach Steve Spagnuolo's system and has become one of the harder-working players on the team.
That last sentence is what makes me smile the most. In the past, we had never heard stories about Steven being one of the hardest-working guys on the team. This offseason, however, that changed. Steven worked harder than ever, and the work is paying off -- he's on pace to rush for a career-high 1,568 yards this season.
Now that the Rams have a competent offensive line, SJ's numbers could get even better in the next two-to-three years. With SJ, the possibilities seem endless.