How much does St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson have left in the tank? Most experts agree that 2012 will be the beginning of the end for the Rams' workhorse back, and some are predicting that this is the year Jackson will "crumple like a Duraflame log."
We at STACK disagree. Here, we present five reasons why Jackson will exceed the modest expectations placed on him for the 2012 season.
Peak Physical Performance
A barbell, stacks of 45-pound plates, and two 45-pound lifting chains: Jackson pretty much had the whole weight room on his back when we visited him during an off-season workout. On his fifth and final set of the Half Squat, he lifted 405 pounds, not including the chains. And he made it look easy. "My body feels good, especially when I'm able to lift the weight as easily as I was able to on that last set," he says.
It's no secret that the 29-year-old Jackson has worn some tread off the tires, including three seasons of 300-plus carries during his career. Still, the workhorse back has missed only two games in the last three seasons. The source of his durability? Off-season strongman workouts, including punishing lower-body exercises like the Reverse Sled Pull and Prowler Sled Drive, designed to improve muscle endurance.
Refined Style of Play
Jackson may never reach 90 receptions like he did back in 2006, but the nine-year veteran made it a priority this off-season to refine all aspects of his game—part of his goal of becoming what he calls "a classical player." "I want to make sure I do everything good," he says. "I take as much pride in pass protection and catching the ball as I do in running and knowing my run reads."
No Split Carries
Yes, the Rams did use a second-round pick this year to select running back Isaiah Pead, who earned MVP honors at this year's Senior Bowl. The former Cincinnati Bearcat, a superb pass catcher out of the backfield, is expected to spell Jackson on third-and-long situations. But unless Jackson suffers an injury, don't expect the rookie Pead to steal carries from the Rams' all-time leading rusher. (Watch video of Pead and other rookie running backs as they prepare for the pros.)
Rams Receiver Depth
After missing the 2011 season, reliable receiver Danny Amendola is back; and the Rams have stocked up on pass-catching targets for franchise QB Sam Bradford, investing five picks in the first four rounds of the last two drafts. The emergence of a young receiver (2012 second-round pick Brian Quick?) would improve the Rams' passing game, thus taking some opposing defense attention away from Jackson.
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