<
>

Steven Jackson neglected near goal line?

10/29/2010

Bobby from St. Louis asked during the most recent NFC West chat whether the Rams were neglecting Steven Jackson once their offense reached the opponents' 10-yard line.

"It seems like every game they have a drive stall in there because we run play-action rollouts or quick drops," Bobby wrote. "The Earl Thomas pick in end zone vs. Seattle, back-to-back sacks vs. San Diego and a couple near-picks vs. Tampa this weekend come to mind. Why not let the workhorse back (among the best in the league) pound the ball four times and test the defense's will?"

I've had time to break down the Rams' personnel use through the Tampa Bay game, allowing me to isolate 36 plays at the 10 or closer. Jackson ran the ball on 10 of these plays. He lost yardage once, gained a single yard five times, had a 3-yard run from the 9 and a 7-yard touchdown run on a second-and-goal play against the Chargers. He averaged 1.3 yards per carry on these 10 rushes.

The Rams tried and failed to run Keith Toston into the end zone from the 1 on two occasions against the Washington Redskins, both from power formations with three tight ends. Jackson had left that game with an injury, however, so it's tough to hold that one against the Rams' coaches. Kenneth Darby had a 7-yard run to the 2 against the Bucs on a three-receiver play featuring Darby and Jackson in a split backfield.

One sequence against the Chargers stood out as supporting your premise.

The Rams had suffered a 6-yard sack on first-and-goal from the 4. Jackson was not in the game for this play. Jackson came into the game on second-and-goal from the 10, but the Rams fooled no one with weak play-action featuring Jackson releasing horizontally into the right flat area. Bradford took another sack.

A penalty against the Chargers on third down produced first-and-goal from the 1. The Rams lined up with three tight ends as if to run, only to have Bradford pass. He took another sack. Only then did the Rams hand off to Jackson, who scored from the 7 on a trap play from three-receiver personnel.

It's clear the Rams trust quarterback Sam Bradford. They like the way he throws with accuracy on the move. They know defenses are keying on Jackson. They want to use this to their advantage by having Bradford run rollouts and bootlegs. It's a good strategy, but a playcaller can sometimes outsmart himself. I wouldn't argue with a few more carries for Jackson when the Rams reach the 10.

The chart shows Jackson's stats by field position, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Their field-position numbers break down rushes inside the 10. I included plays beginning at the 10. The rushing stats match because Jackson has not carried from the 10 this season. Note, also, that the chart includes some duplicating information. Carries inside the 10 show up in two categories.

2010: Steven Jackson by field position