The St. Louis Rams have a pretty impressive legacy when it comes to running backs. In fact, that history is so rich, franchise rushing leader Steven Jackson still has some work to do to be considered the franchise's best. Overtaking Marshall Faulk for that unofficial title may be impossible.
Football Outsiders ranked the top five running backs in Rams' history, and the order of the list should not surprise you.
On top, there's Faulk. Remembered for his contributions to the Greatest Show on Turf, Faulk was truly one of those rare special players that defies simple categorization. His ass-headedness off the field aside, Faulk is in the top ten of the franchise leader board for receiving yards (10th). His ability as a receiver sets him apart, says FO:
In Faulk's case, his receiving capabilities take him from an obvious Hall of Famer to someone who should be included among discussions of the top-10 running backs of all time.
Next on the list is Eric Dickerson. Who is second on the franchise leaderboard for rushing yards as well as rushing touchdowns (behind only Faulk on TDs). When owner Georgia Frontiere traded Dickerson, it was the last straw for many LA fans. He was the one player that kept them relevant through the 1980s.
Third, is Steven Jackson. Jackson has 52 rushing touchdowns. He needs seven more to top Faulk as the franchise leader. The last time he had seven rushing touchdowns in a season was 2008. Can he do that this year?
More recent Rams fans may wonder why Jackson ranks below Dickerson. FO explains:
Jackson is nearly 2,000 yards ahead of Dickerson and Faulk on the Rams' all-time rushing list. He now has more yards from scrimmage than Faulk with the Rams. In the eternal battle between peak and career value, Jackson is a predicament. Dickerson and Faulk have insanely high peaks Jackson can never match. How much career value must he amass to catch either of them? That's a matter of individual preference, to a degree, but I would place Jackson ahead of Dickerson if he has a few productive seasons for some .500-plus Rams teams. The win-loss record matters in this case because it is hard to imagine the Dickerson-Dieter teams cracking .500 without Dickerson. Asking a running back to elevate his team to such a degree is a tall order, but Dickerson met it for a few years.
I might argue that Jackson has played for such historically bad Rams teams, on both offense and defense, during an era where the ground game has been marginalized in its ability to carry a team. I'm not so sure that a genetic splicing of Faulk, Jackson and Dickerson would have given these recent Rams teams more than an extra win or two.
Working in Jackson's favor is a remarkable run of health. Yes, SJ has dealt with bumps and bruises that have limited him over the years, but the label "injury prone" is not appropriate. Jackson has seven straight seasons of 1,000 rushing yards or more. He missed four games in 2007 and another four in 2008, but has played in 15 or 16 games in three seasons since, topping 320 carries in two of the three. He only carried the ball 260 times last season in 15 games, which could be a decided advantage for him this year.
Behind Jackson on the list is Lawrence McCutcheon, the offensive super star on those 70s era Rams teams more known for the Fearsome Foursome on defense. Fifth on the list is Dan Towler.