Jackson's Return Spoiled By A Flock Of Cardinals
After a month of being inactive due to a leg injury, bruising RB Steven Jackson of the Atlanta Falcons returned to the field on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the Arizona Cardinals defense spoiled Jackson's plans of making a strong statement through establishing a more consistent ground attack. The Cardinals, who are ranked fifth in rushing yards allowed per game (88.2), limited Atlanta to only 27 yards. Jackson carried the ball six times for a measly 11 yards and hauled in three passes from QB Matt Ryan for just seven yards.
I can't judge Jackson too harshly or dismiss him just yet. Take into account that he just came back from injury and that any player - no matter how great he is - can struggle to shake the rust off follwoing a long absence. Jackson has not played since Week 2, and even if he had played at full stregth and 100 percent healthy, the Cardinals were ready to shut down the running attack. You have to give Arizona credit for forcing Ryan to attempt to win the game through the air.
However, the Falcons can't rely only on the passing game for the rest of the season. It is true that Ryan is still throwing down the field at will. Despite losing WR Julio Jones for the season and not having fellow receiver Roddy White in the lineup for another week Harry Douglas has stepped up as the No. 1 target at wideout. But averaging only 62.4 rushing yards per game - which is dead last in the league - will not cut it.
I believe that Jackson will eventually get his groove back in one or two games and revive the team's running game. Until that happens, he will need help from RBs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. Both of them would need to contriubute more to the offense, especially Rodgers. The 5-6 running back plays a bit like Darren Spoles of the New Orleans Saints in the sense that he can turn dump off passes into long gains with his speed. Rodgers can also take runs from the outside to the house if the line gives him more running room.
Falcons fans everywhere are just hoping that Jackson can start terrorizing defenses again next week and help Atlanta get back to contending for a playoff spot.