Among the things inducing hand wringing among fans of the St. Louis Rams this year is installation of a new offense, the team's third offensive system in three years. Fortunately, Brian Scottenheimer's offense is at least somewhat familiar to the players.
"This offense is very similar, not identical, but very similar to what we ran two years ago with Pat Shurmur and his offense," Steven Jackson said after Wednesday's OTA. "The learning curve has not been too harsh on myself. Sam (Bradford) is looking good, our receivers, we have a deep group that is very competitive that's going to not only help us, but is also going to bring the best out of each individual guy. All in all, as an offense we're looking good."
That's good, because Jackson is likely to have a big role in things this year.
Quarterback Sam Bradford echoed a similar sentiment.
"It's definitely not the same, but this offense does have some West Coast roots, so I think at the base level, some of the things that this offense does, they are similar to what we did two years ago with Pat's offense," Bradford said.
Obviously, the differences for quarterbacks and running backs will be significant. Interestingly enough, one signature of Schottenhemier's offenses in New York was the role of running backs as receivers.
Last season, the LaDainian Tomlinson caught 42 passes, third most on the team. Shonn Greene caught 30, giving the Jets' top two running backs a combined 72 receptions. The season before that, Tomlinson had 52 catches, three fewer than tight end Dustin Keller who led the team with 55 receptions.
The running backs started catching more passes with the arrival of LT in 2010. Tomlinson has always been a double threat as a receiver. He once caught 100 passes in San Diego, and last season was only the second time in his career that he caught fewer than 50.
Now who does that sound like to you? I don't know, maybe [Church Lady echo effect] Steven Jackson!
Jackson caught 90 passes in 2006, and has really been a bit under-used since then. Add in Isaiah Pead, who caught 39 passes in 13 games in 2011 for the Bearcats. Pead can cut well on his routes and has the speed to burn defenses, so it's safe to say that you can expect to see him in the passing game as well. It makes you wonder if the combo of Pead and Jackson won't catch 70 passes between them this season.
Obviously, the sheer numbers from Schottenheimer's offense also point to a system that uses plenty of screen passes, options, etc. It can also be useful in setting up bootlegs and draw plays. That's where you get some similarities to Shurmur's offense. One difference, hopefully, will be the presence of improved receivers, guys like Brian Quick and the field stretching Chris Givens, both of whom should make for a more dynamic offense that what the Rams had in 2010.
We will not know until training camp how the carries and looks between Jackson and Pead will be distributed. We can safely say that the running backs will be an integral part of the Rams' season in 2012.