What Steven Jackson Means For Atlanta’s 2nd-Half Woes


May 29, 2013; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson (39) takes a hand off from quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during organized team activities at the Falcons Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Championship teams play football for 60 minutes…

Atlanta’s dilemma last year was that they only played for 30.

Finishing games is just as important as getting off to a hot start, but, I’m sure Mike Smith and every other head coach currently in the NFL knows this. It’s a philosophy heavily-preached in every locker room, and the top teams can get it done on a consistent basis. The Falcons set out to solve the problem by adding Steven Jackson to the offense; However, some think the acquisition is insignificant for a couple of reasons…

1. He will be 30 when the season starts.

2. He’s almost 30.

He will be 30 by the time the season starts, and even the best of running backs tend to fall off around that age, so most don’t see him as a upgrade to Turner who was also his 30’s before being released. But, what the detractors of this move don’t seem to understand is that Atlanta is not in dire need of a 2,000 yard rusher. Jackson is the starting back on a offense that features Matt Ryan and the strongest receiving core in the NFL… So Jackson won’t have to carry the team, just the ball.

Jackson also brings with him a work ethic similar to future HOF’er Tony Gonzalez. I’ve seen photos of him at the OTA’s and to say he looks ‘rock-solid’ would be a understatement. His blue-collar approach to the game fits in well with the Falcons and it’s safe to say he plans on being in top shape for the duration of his contract, which is more than what I could say for Turner. Jackson may not have the top-5 ability that he showed early in his career at St. Louis, but he brings with him a skill-set that will keep an aggressive defense honest.

He (still) has the power and shiftiness to create his own holes, which takes pressure off the O-line to create gaping lanes on every run play. The run game is key to winning the 2nd-half of football games and it pays to have a back that can get creative as the O-line wears down over the course of the game. He fights for every yard, which will be key for converting those 3-and-2’s or 1’s. He also won’t have to come out on obvious passing downs seeing as he catches and blocks well.

Also, lets not forget the experience he has against NFC West teams. The Seahawks and the Niners at the moment are the only two teams that stand in the way of a Falcons Super Bowl and he’s terrorized those two teams for years. Ask Patrick Willis how tough he is to bring down.

With that being said I still think Mike Smith will resist using Jackson heavily at the beginning of games in order to keep him fresh for the season and the playoffs, similar to what they did with Turner. As a matter of fact the game plan won’t change that much from when we had Turner…Jackson does open up the playbook and helps the team in more ways than one, but I’m sure Smith and Dirk Koetter will save their best for the post-season. Steven Jackson comes in with the responsibility of converting tough yardage and  keeping Atlanta’s defense off the field in the 2nd-half. Because while we have some Pro-Bowl talent on that side of the ball, this is far from the 2001 Ravens or Steel Curtain-type unit.

Does Atlanta need a 2,000 yard rusher to get to the Super Bowl? No, but a big year shouldn’t be out of the question. Curtis Martin and Ladainian Tomlinson are a couple of examples of backs who were productive their 10th year in the league. At best I expect a 1300/15 TD season from him. Like I mentioned earlier, we don’t need him to carry the team…

Only the football