Too Early for Predictions: Steven Jackson


December 23, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (39) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I predicted the stats that Matt Ryan will have after the 2013 season.  As the new Blogging Dirty editor, I thought I would kick off the job by predicting some more stats.  I’ll start with one of the new Falcons: Steven Jackson!

First, let’s look at what he did last year and see how his role will change. For this, post I’ll only do a breakdown for rushing stats; tomorrow I’ll talk about passing stats since he’s so versatile.

Last year, SJAX ran for 1,042 yards with 257 carries at 4.1 yards per rush.  He had 4 touchdowns and played all 16 games.

Those are decent stats, but they don’t look particularly amazing.  But it’s when you look beneath the stats and really watch how he plays to see what makes Jackson so special.  He is a mixture of speed and power.  He’s a well balanced back that plays smart.  Michael Turner was very powerful, but when he got open, it was a matter of time before someone caught him.  Steven Jackson has that rare ability to break through defenses and then out run defenders.  Atlanta will get more yards after a few broken tackles from this guy.

One of the things Atlanta has that St. Louis didn’t last year is a stable O-line.  You can’t predict injuries, but the only real question at the position is right tackle. I predict Mike Smith makes his decision sooner rather than later, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of output from whoever is chosen.

Atlanta also has a better quarterback than the Rams.  I’m sure Sam Bradford will develop into a great player one day, but he’s still no Matty Ice.  With a better quarterback comes a stronger pass game that goes to the air more often, not to mention splitting many rushes with Jacquizz Rodgers.  So Steven Jackson may not get as many carries as he had before.  At the same time, while the Rams were behind most of the season, they had to keep passing while Atlanta was usually ahead and (not being very successful) had to run out the clock.  So if Jackson is better than Turner was at running out the clock, then he might get back the lost rushes he would lose due to a pass-first offense.  Not to mention with an upgrade at running back, they will rush more often, so I’ll split the difference and predict about the same amount of carries, maybe a little less.  One thing Atlanta does love to do is run on the one-yard line.  Pounding it in is what gave Michael Turner, who had a disappointing season, still managed 10 touchdowns.  So you can bet on a spike in touchdowns for this guy.

So taking into account the new team for this reliable back, these are my predictions:

250 attempts, 1,050 yards at 4.2 yards per carry.  This may look very similar to his last year, but with a new team and a new plan, these stats have a much different impact.  A lot of these rushes would be at the end of a game to run out the clock.  It will lead to many wins, reducing how many times the other team gets a chance to come back.  He hits those holes faster too, so I don’t think he gets stalled on the line of scrimmage as much as Turner did.  I’m predicting 14 touchdowns this season.  I’m willing to bet he proves himself as a great investment for the Falcons offense.

How do you think Steven Jackson will do this year?