Steven Jackson is motivated. Ok, Steven Jackson is always motivated; he's one of the most motivated players in the game. However, all this talk of him getting old, slowing down, has the St. Louis Rams running back particularly hungry this season.
I'm reading that I'm getting long in the tooth, I'm getting old... It's actually been encouraging. It's working in reverse. If we all read about running backs at 30, they tend to fall off and they only have so many number hits in their body. That's all well and true, but I think that goes from an average of players. You have guys like Marcus Allen and Emmitt Smith that played well into their 30s. I don't want to do that, but at the age of 30, I don't see me hitting a cliff.
That was Jackson on ESPN 101 today. You would expect a guy like Steven to be fired up by the suggestion that he no longer has what it takes to be successful in the NFL anymore.
For the record, we never said Jackson was getting too old to play, just that his role was evolving.
His comment about not wanting to play into his 30s is interesting. Jackson's always been a guy who acknowledges the importance of having a life after football. Jackson is under contract for another two years after this one with the Rams, unless he reaches an average of 400 receiving yards and 1200 rushing yards over the first four years of the contract he signed in 2008. Through three years, he has an average of 1,233 rushing yards and 361 receiving yards.
To reach the milestone that will make him a free agent, he needs just over 1,100 yards rushing this season to maintain that pace, but will need more than 500 yards receiving to get there. He has 806 receiving yards in 2006 on 90 receptions. The Rams figure to run a healthy amount of screen passes, but with all those other options on the field now, it's going to be hard to get Jackson 500 yards receiving.
Or is it? Jackson suggested in the PD profile piece that McDaniels' offense plans to use him more in the passing game this year. That doesn't fit with the narrative that Jackson has slowed down, but narratives are just perceptions made to be blown up, shattered by some post-modern trickster like Josh McDaniels. Jackson possesses the kind of versatility prized in an offense like this one, able to lineup wide, in the backfield, in the slot or wherever they need him to take advantage of a mismatch on the defense.
By Sunday we should have a much clearer picture of what Jackson's role in the offense will look like in 2011, putting all this speculation to rest.