In 2013, Steven Jackson compiled the lowest rushing total of his career and broke his personal streak of eight straight 1,000-yard seasons.
The 31-year-old back missed four games due to injury, compiling just 543 yards on 157 carries and six touchdowns in an effete Falcons rushing attack. But coach Mike Smith has faith Jackson will bounce back next season.
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“Unfortunately, Steven was injured last year and we didn’t really get a chance to see what he was capable of doing until the last four or five games,” Smith said this week at the NFL Annual Meeting, per ESPN.com. “But you’ve got to have a big back when you have to get the two or three yards. Especially late in the season, you’ve got to be able to run the football.”
Jackson signed a three-year, $12 million contract last season, which in today’s running back market is a king’s ransom.
Smith believes Jackson is capable of being his pounding runner, but admitted the position necessitates a rotation.
“The running back position is going through a transition in terms of its value,” Smith said. “It’s more of a position where you want to have two or three running backs running the ball. It’s probably the most punishing position on the field. You look at it as a position that you want to have a first-down runner, a change-of-pace runner, there’s different body types and there’s different skill sets.”
The shifty Jacquizz Rodgers provides the change of pace Smith is looking for but, with no other depth at the position and the possibility that Jackson — with 2,553 career carries on his legs — never returns to form, the Falcons are primed to take a running back in the middle rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft.
The latest “Around The League Podcast” offers a full recap of the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando, then proposes player moves that won’t happen (but probably should).