For June, there's actually a ton of Rams stuff to talk about, so let's jump right in with some thoughts on Steven Jackson.
In his report from Rams Park, ESPN's Mike Sando checks in with the centerpiece of the Rams offense, RB Steven Jackson. Based on observations of the Rams practice and precedent in similar offensive systems the report predicts that Jackson will again rack up significant receiving totals. Here's Jackson's take:
"I have said that in the past, but this year I am able to really work out with the receivers and make sure I'm a good route-runner. It's different than catching 4- and 5-yard checkdowns. I'm flanking out wide with the receivers and learning to run routes."
Jackson can accumlate yards after the catch, what the West Coast system is predicated on, with his ability. He's had some long catches, two fifty yarders in consecutive weeks last season. It will be interesting to see him running routes more, getting the ball on patterns other than the expected seam or slant routes.
And speaking of those checkdowns, that opens up a point I've been mulling over for a few weeks now about the backup running backs. Kenneth Darby looks to be a guy who can do some pass blocking, catch those dump offs/checkdowns, and run the occasional short route. This year's seventh round draft pick, Chris Ogbonnaya, is a converted WR who accumlated better receiving stats than rushing stats as the main RB in one of the nation's top spread offenses. Do you see a pattern here? Think about how many two RB sets the Rams could use this year with one of these guys and Jackson. Defenders have to respect Jackson when he's on the field, which should help leave open the second running back in those formations to catch those ugly checkdowns and move the chains forward. Or in those situations they can get a handoff and move the chains a little bit too. Those aren'thte only two guys on the roster behind Jackson. What will Pittman do this summer, and what about Gado? It would also surprise nobody to see the Rams add a more traditional runner to the group before the start of the season. However, the use of guys like Darby and Ogbonnaya sheds some light on the backup RB situation in the Rams new West Coast offense.