When the Atlanta Falcons added veteran running back Steven Jackson prior to last season some saw it as the piece that would get the team over the hump and into the Super Bowl.
Instead Jackson struggled and the Falcons few victim to early season injuries en-route to a losing season, one year after a NFC Championship loss.
Last year the Falcons added Jackson on a three-year deal worth $12 million. He was coming off eight straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons with the St. Louis Rams. In his first year with the Falcons, Smith totaled just 543 yards rushing in 2013 nothing a career-low 3.5 yards per carry having much of his effectiveness zapped by a early hamstring injury.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith is not ready to give up on Jackson who will turn 31 in July.
“We felt like you’ve got to be able to run the football and run the football when everybody knows you’re going to do that,” Smith explained, via ESPN. “When you’re in that situation, you’ve got to have a big back. And we felt like Steven was the type of running back that we were looking for.
“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. 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.”
Smith also spoke about the changing of the running back position and the need for other players to step up.
“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. You’ve got to have a running back that can pass protect. … he’s very involved in pass protection. Very rarely do you see a true four-down alignment. He’s got to be able to identify the defensive formation, who the line’s going to take and who he’s going to take.”
The Falcons have Jacquizz Rodgers, and Antone Smith also on their roster. Expect them to add someone in the draft.
Another point of improvement in 2014 for the Falcons should be their offensive line which struggled to block and protect last season. Will the improvements there and a healthy Jackson be enough to return the Falcons to the playoffs?