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Getting Steven Jackson game-ready

Philosophy. Jackson's 27 day holdout came down to a difference in "philosophy." The philosophy of the contract's guaranteed money, rather than the number of angels on a pin's head, kept us breathing easy and wondering if this season wouldn't just end up a carbon copy of the last. Well, whatever your philosophy, we can be glad the damn thing's over.

Now, just how long will it take Jackson to get game ready?  There are two issues at hand here. First, Jackson needs to be in game shape. He's been working out throughout his holdout - and his colonic stands as a testament to just how much effort he put into keeping his body temple-like. Now, it's a matter of Jackson getting used to working in pads, at full speed, at full contact, and, lest we forget, getting used to making his turns and cuts on turf. It's stretch to think he'll play against B-more this weekend.

Larry Johnson, who missed 25 days of camp and preseason last year, carried the ball just 3 times against the Rams in the mighty Governor's Cup, the last preseason game for both teams. In a week one drubbing at the hands of the Texans, Johnson carried the ball just 10 times (more than anyone else) and led the Cheifs with 7 receptions. When you go back and look at the play-by-play for that game, Johnson didn't run as much as you would assume he normally would. The Chiefs limited Johnson's workload in that game because of his holdout. In fact, Johnson didn't have more than 20 carries until week 3 last season. However, it sounds like questionable play calling limited Johnson's reps in week 2.

The second factor in getting Jackson back to game speed is the playbook. Al Saunders' offense has stymied Bulger and the receivers with timing issues on the new routes (and just think, they're not running more than 50% of the playbook early on). But it's a little different with running backs. Jackson's going to see plenty of screens, throws in the flat, runs around the ends, the tackles and good old up the gut runs, not dramatically different than what he's already done with the Rams. In 2006, he had 346 carries for 1500+ yards and 90 receptions (second only to Holt's 93 on the Rams that year) for 800+ yards. For Jackson, Saunders' offense shouldn't come with a steep learning curve.

Let's go back to Larry Johnson for some perspective on that. In Saunders' last season with KC, 2005, LJ had 336 carries for 1700+ yards and 33 catches for 340+ yards. The next season, LJ had 400+ carries for another 1700+ yards with 41 receptions and 410 receiving yards. The change in coordinators didn't dramatically effect LJ's grasp of the playbook, but it likely didn't change all that much between seasons.

What's it all mean for Steven Jackson? Always defer to precedent. In the early goings Jackson won't see 30 carries a game, but he will be used pretty strategically on screens, a play he performs better than anyone in the NFL (sorry Westbrook fans) and a few runs. He'll also be on the field more than he touches the ball to create mismatches and get opponents to stack the box.