St. Louis Rams All-Pro running back Steven Jackson voiced optimism about the team’s depth at the running back position while meeting with media after Wednesday morning’s practice in Earth City.
“The young backs are doing really good.” Jackson said. “I think we feel good. I feel good physically. The younger guys are coming along just fine. If we continue to stay healthy I don’t think it will be a concern.”
Staying healthy will be key for Jackson and the Rams this season as the star back is recovering from offseason surgery to repair a herniated disc. Jackson spent the summer building up the muscles in his core to ensure that his back was secure and able to withstand the rigors of playing running back in the NFL. He will sit out this Saturday’s first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings as a precaution but is on course to start the team’s season opener against Arizona. Last season was a monster year for Jackson as he was 2nd in the league in rushing with 1416 yards on 324 carries despite his back injury which didn’t allow him to practice the last few weeks of the season.
Vying to help lighten the load on Jackson is 2nd year man Chris Ogbonnaya, who only saw action in the final two games of 09’but is showing signs of promise this year in training camp. Aside from Ogbonnaya, there is Kenneth Darby who was the primary backup last year. Darby played in all 16 games and ran the ball 27 times for 152 yards to go with 18 receptions for 96 yards. The other running back competing for a job is undrafted rookie Keith Toston out of Oklahoma State. Both Darby (hamstring) and Toston (concussion) have been hit with the injury bug recently. Toston is back on the field, but Darby has sat out of practice this week.
The Rams running attack ranked 20th in the league last season and should be a bit better this year since their young backups have had another year of experience under their belt. Also, No. 2 pick in last year’s draft Jason Smith is returning from a toe injury and 2nd round pick in this year’s draft, Roger Saffold has impressed in camp and is expected to slide into the starting left tackle spot. But even with the progression of the young guys most of the St. Louis Rams success in the ground game this year will undoubtedly depend on Stephen Jackson and if he returns healthy and ready to go this season.