Running In Jackson's Shoes
Multi talented, bruising RB Steven Jackson usually adds another dimension to offenses through his power, speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He has been playing well so far in 2013, racking up 112 total yards in the Week 1 thiller against the New Orleans Saints and scored a receiving touchdown last week against the St. Louis Rams.
And yet, we will not be seeing the former Ram in today's game against the red-hot Miami Dolphins, and maybe not even for a few weeks, due to a thigh injury he sustained during the score against his former team. That hurts the Atlanta Falcons offensive unit a lot, especially when you consider how much the team has been struggling so far with the offensive line woes and QB Matt Ryan being knocked around. Jackson had been the bright spot on an otherwise disappointing offense.
Do not fret too much though, because I strongly believe the Falcons can still have a decent running attack with the team's other three rushing options. All of the running backs on the roster must step up to the challenge and run wild the next few weeks. My personal - and realistic - choice to start in Jackson's absence would be Jason Snelling. He has a similar body size as Jackson, rarely fumbles and is built to run between the tackles. Snelling is also the most proven rusher out of the three - his best season came in 2009, when he ran for 613 yards, scored four rushing touchdowns and averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Snelling also caught 30 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown that year as well. He may not be as dangerous as Jackson, but Snelling can get the job done and help take the pressure off of Ryan.
The next option is RB Josh Vaughan. Like Snelling, he can be just as versatile as Jackson. Though Vaughan did not play a down yet this season and rarely played in his last three seasons in the pros, Vaughan has enough on his college resume to prove how effective he can be. When he played for Richmond, Vaughan was a return specialist and once took a 79-yard touchdown reception to the house. In his senior year in 2008, Vaughan ran for 1,884 yards and scored 20 times on the ground while helping lead his team to a Division I FCS Championship. Do not be suprised to see him get some reps for at least the next two weeks. Vaughan may a good backup to Jackson in the future, or even a starter for teams in need of a running back.
Fellow back Jacquizz Rodgers is a longshot to step up to the role of an every-down running back. We have seen his ability to speed past defenders for touchdowns last season and his outside speed compliments Snelling's and Jackson's north-south running style. This season, however, he has struggled to gain much yardage, averaging just 1.2 yards per carry so far (but you can also blame some of this on the poor blocking and shuffling of the starting offensive line). Rodgers is still good for screens and short passes though, gaining 6.2 yards per catch.
Let's hope that this revolving door of running backs will only be a temporary adversity to contend with and that Jackson comes back strong and ready to be a focal point of the offense once again sooner rather than later.