St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson and the twilight of the lone running back era

Throughout the chatter leading up to and in the wake of the 2011 NFL Draft, the rise of the dual running back system in the NFL was a hot topic. Speaking anecdotally, this draft more than any other was stuffed with part-time backs, role players best designed to carry a partial load for a team's running game. Second running backs and time sharing was a particularly sensitive issue for the St. Louis Rams, whose search for a backup/complementary back continues even after the draft. 

Today at SBNation, John Bois tackles the single running back issue with a heaping helping of data and charts and graphs to explain. Needless to say, the Rams, led by RB Steven Jackson are a holdout in the new trend.

The Rams were one of just 7 NFL teams with a single running back that had more than 300 carries. Defining single running back teams as those whose main RB takes more than 70 percent of the carries, the Rams were one of ten teams in the NFL last year. 

Another interesting data point for the Rams is the relative age of those so-called "stud" back. Their average age is 24.6 years; Jackson, at 27, is one of the older players. Michael Turner is the oldest at 29. It's not a secret that running backs decline with age, all players do. But given the workload put upon Steven Jackson during his time as the feature back in St. Louis combined with his age, it should be a big red flag for the Rams. 

His yards-per-carry was a career low 3.8. Of the 23 running backs with 200 or more rushing attempts, Jackson's YPA number ranks 19th. Of the seven running backs with 300 or more carries, Jackson's YPA ranks 6th. Obviously, that stat is influenced to some degree by the offensive line and the entire offensive unit (e.g. a longer passing game would have opened up the field more). Just how much those factors account for Jackson's YPA can be debated. He had much better YPA numbers in the seasons prior to that...behind offensive lines that were worse than this one. 

Keep an eye on what the Rams do in free agency. They've built what should be a pretty competitive offense this year, at least a more competitive offense, but if they lose Jackson for any stretch of time, it could be rough sailing. For my money, there's no bigger team need than this one. 

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