I'm as guilty as the next fan. It's just been that exciting watching Sam Bradford through four games, that Steven Jackson has taken something of a second billing for the St. Louis Rams offense. Besides the newness of the rookie QB, some of that has come out of necessity: Jackson has been the only working part of this offense for years, making the Rams so one-dimensional that it hobbled their ability to score points. Now that the Rams can actually pass the ball productively, it's meant something less than a total emphasis on the run game. Nevertheless, the time is right for a Steven Jackson breakout, and this could be the week.
Jackson has the ninth most rushing attempts in the league with 73. The leader, Chris Johnson has 94 carries. Jackson rounds out the leader board in total yardage, 284, coming in tenth in the NFL.
Solid numbers, but off his career norms. Most telling is that Jackson's averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, off his career average of 4.3 YPC and the lowest YPC number of any season. Last season Jackson averaged 4.4 YPC on 324 attempts.
Despite a heroic effort with a strained groin last week, Jackson has yet to top 100 yards rushing in a game this season. Heading into week 5 last year, he had two 100+ yard games. This is the longest he's gone without a 100+ yard rushing game since 2005, when he was splitting time with Marshall Faulk.
So what's the deal? Part of it is the better balance of the Rams offense mentioned above. Part of it has to do with the Rams poor outings in the first two weeks of the season, particularly from the offensive line. Last week things were much better, and had the Rams not been facing one of the league's stiffest run defenses and Jackson playing with a sore groin, a 100+ yard outing would probably have happened.
But it didn't. So can Jackson break the triple digit mark today against Detroit?
Last season Jackson had 149 yards on 22 carries against the Lions. In four games this year, two running backs have topped the 100 yard mark against Detroit. The Lions rank 29th in the league for adjusted line yards on run in the middle and 26th on runs at right end, both spots where the Rams like to run the ball. Detroit also ranks among the league's worst in second-level (25) and open field (30) yards, so if the o-line can open a few holes for Jackson he could break off some long runs.
The Rams need it if they're going to put together a three game win streak.