With each passing week, the Atlanta Falcons‘ running game has slowly gone from Geno Smith‘s butt fumble bad to Blaine Gabbert‘s nightmare at quarterback bad. As Steven Jackson is set to return since injuring his hamstring back in Week 2, his mere presence should help the process of resuscitating a running game that has completely gone off the grid.
Long gone are the days where Jackson would barrel over defenders at will with his brute strength and physical demeanor, but in the game where he actually played all four quarters, Jackson displayed he still has the ability to be one of the leagues’ better runners even at the age of 30.
In his lone game this season back in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, Jackson carried the rock 11 times for 77 yards. To put that in perspective, in the last three games, the Atlanta Falcons have rushed the ball 55 times to a grand total of 140 rushing yards. Jackson’s total rushing yards in his lone game already is more than half of what the Falcons were able to get in a total of three games.
To make matters worse, in their latest victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Falcons’ rushing game gained 18 yards on 18 attempts. Words cannot describe just how bad the Falcons ground game has been, which is why Jackson’s return is a huge plus for a Falcons team that is now ranked 30th in the NFL.
Although Jacquizz Rodgers has been an outstanding player in the passing game, particularly in the screen passes, both Rogers and Jason Snelling have been mostly ineffective on the ground game. Their best game was back in Week 3 against the Miami Dolphins, where they racked up 146 yards on 30 carries with an average of 4.8 yards per carry by both running backs.
Not only will Jackson’s return help improve the running game drastically, but his impact should help the Falcons become a more balanced team on offense, especially with injuries to key players.
“Anytime you lose two explosive receivers, things have to change,” Jackson said via ESPN. “We always talked, before the injuries occurred, about being a balanced offense. We want to continue on that theme, continue to make sure that we get the running game fixed. We [want to] be able to create first downs and get some tough yardage, when need be, but to be able to make sure that we keep the defense honest, more than anything.”
With Snelling out due to an injury against their upcoming game against the Arizona Cardinals, who are ranked seventh in the league in rushing defense by giving up 97 yards per game, the Falcons will need Jackson to be in top shape when he suits up after being sidelined for four-straight games.
Even if Jackson is limited on the offense and doesn’t get a huge workload, his presence on the field will impact the way opposing defenses line up against the Falcons, as they will have to show some respect to a running game that is one of the worst in the NFL.
As the saying goes, one player can make a difference, and for the Falcons, that difference maker is indeed Jackson.