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Is there real concern about Steven Jackson?

Back injury, lack of RB depth could be an issue for Rams. Matt Bowen

Print This May 06, 2010, 07:00 AM EST

How many times do we hear about players in this league having “minor procedures” done on knees, shoulders, etc. in the off-season? It has almost become part of the process for players to prepare their bodies for another year in the NFL.

But, when you read reports about players like Rams RB Steven Jackson having back surgery to repair a herniated disc that he suffered during the regular season, it makes you wonder how much of the workload he will be able to carry into the following season.

According to the report from Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the surgery Jackson had will keep him out of the spring OTA’s and he could be back by the beginning of training camp. Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo even said, “It was a minor procedure.”

What we expect to hear from a head coach in early May, right?

Of course, but even Spagnuolo doesn’t know what he has right now in Jackson—a RB that can rank up there with the names of Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson. A back that can carry the ball 25-plus times a game every Sunday.

And, looking at the depth chart in St. Louis should there be much optimism with names like Kenneth Darby and Chris Ogbaonnaya backing up Jackson?

The Rams made the right move drafting Sam Bradford No.1 overall and giving him an explosive weapon on offense in Cincy WR Madry Gilyard—a player that should be able to cause matchup issues when he aligns at the slot position inside of the numbers. 

I can’t argue that, but where is the help at RB? This was a deep class of backs, as Mike Sando of ESPN pointed out. Players such as Jonathan Dwyer of Georgia Tech and Anthony Dixon of Mississippi State going as late as the sixth round. Productive college backs that could have played a prominent role in St. Louis this season if Jackson can’t carry the ball for four quarters like he has in the past.

The Brian Westbrook talk? I still see it as just talk, because even if the former Eagle is in camp with the Rams this summer, he has shown us his inability to stay on the field. He isn’t an answer. More of a luxury item to work with a healthy feature back.

And, let’s not forget about Bradford. If he is going to play early this season, then he needs help—from the running game. The best asset a young QB can have is a backfield that moves the chains, sets him up in manageable third down situations and produces once the offense reaches the red zone. Look at Mark Sanchez and the Jets last season as an example. Yes, the Rams aren’t there yet in terms of overall talent when sized up with Rex Ryan’s team, but the idea is the same—use the running game to protect the rookie QB.

I understand that this could all be a wasted conversation if Jackson returns in August and still runs like the dominant feature back we have seen in the past. However, the trickle down effect on this offense can be debilitating if he is limited.

Veteran players have surgery in the off-season because their bodies are wearing down.  If anything, that is what we know about Jackson now.

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

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