By Matthew Asher
Name: Steven Jackson – RB – #39
Weight: 240 lbs.
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
College: Oregon State
Like excited kids running downstairs on Christmas morning, the Atlanta Falcons were thrilled with their acquisition of All-Pro running back Steven Jackson for one simple reason: he now makes the entire Falcons offense dangerous, especially in the running component.
Jackson is the 27th and newest member of the 10,000-yard rushing club. Even more impressive than the sheer numbers he’s piled up is the consistency at which he’s performed throughout his career. Jackson is just the sixth running back in NFL history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons. His rookie season, most of the time spent as Marshall Faulk’s backup, was the only time he didn’t eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. He still ran for almost 700 yards averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
Fortunately for Atlanta, Jackson does more than give the Falcons a much-needed boost in the running game, he’s also a skilled receiver. While his numbers are not jaw-dropping, Jackson has piled up more than 3.300 receiving yards to go along with eight touchdowns in his NFL career.
Before Jackson made a name for himself in the pros or even college, he made a name for himself while attending Eldorado High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. During his high school career, Jackson rushed for almost 6,400 yards and 81 touchdowns.
He attended Oregon State University and played with the Beavers for three seasons. In his 36 college games, Jackson piled up 3,625 rushing yards, 680 receiving yards and 240 on kick and punt returns. He finished with 4,545 all-purpose yards, the second most in Beavers history. Jackson’s total of 46 touchdowns give him a total of 276 points scored for the Beavers, the third-most in school history.
As a sophomore during the 2002 season, Jackson had the 10th most rushing yards, 1,545, in the nation and the ninth most all-purpose yards at 2,015. In 2003, Jackson led the then Pac-10 in rushing yards, averaging 130 yards a game. He was an All-American in both 2002 and 2003. After his accomplishments, he decided to forgo his senior year and declare for the NFL Draft, a move he would not regret.
The St. Louis Rams selected Jackson with the 24th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
While learning under future Hall of Fame player Marshall Faulk, Jackson continued to work hard. It took him a few years, but during 2006 he had his breakout season––the season that St. Louis coaches were expecting to see.
He set personal records with 1,528 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, as well as personal bests with 806 receiving yards, 90 receptions and three receiving touchdowns. Everyone in the league became aware of the next big running back for the Rams.
After the 2012 NFL season, Jackson entered free agency with a desire to compete for a championship, and was considered one of the top free agents available.
Jackson wanted a team that would compete for a title. After finishing the 2012 season 13-3, the Falcons lost in the playoffs to the eventual NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers. Will the Falcons seek revenge? You bet, but they knew they needed to upgrade their entire team first. The Falcons needed a running back that can still produce. It was a perfect fit.
Last season, a critical error in the offense was the lack of short yardage, bruising running situations. Former running back Michael Turner saw a decrease in his rushing yards by nearly 600 yards compared to the 2011 season. What led to his team finally cutting him was his average yards per carry, which fell below 4.0 for the first time in his career. Turner averaged only 3.6 yards per carry, nearly a yard shy of his 4.5 yards per carry during 2011.
Assuming Jackson can stay healthy, he’ll be moving up the all-time rushing leader board fairly quickly. Currently in 26th place in the ranking of most career rushing yards, if Jackson gets his career average of 1,127 yards this season, he’ll move up to 17th place. If he can average that number twice, he’ll move into ninth place.
We have seen him put up incredible stats year after year. While advancing in list of most career rushing yards would be a nice accomplishment, Jackson must be focused on the upcoming season. There is a possible situation where Jackson can accomplish both goals. You can bet that Steven Jackson and the Atlanta Falcons are both working toward those outcomes.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.