In the 42 total games Dom Capers has coordinated the Packers defense, only five running backs have topped 100 yards in a game.
One of those was the opponent last week, Atlanta’s Michael Turner.
Two of the other four are coming at Capers’ defense in the next two weeks – St. Louis’ Steven Jackson and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson – and to hear one player who knows Jackson well tell it, the first challenge will prepare the Packers for the second.
“He’s just violent when he runs. He’s like a bigger Adrian Peterson,” said defensive lineman Ryan Pickett, a teammate of Jackson’s with the Rams for the running back’s first two seasons in the league (2004-05). “He’s 6-2 and they list him probably at 240. He’s probably bigger than that and he runs like a 4.4, 4.5. The guy is tough, man.”
Since coming to Green Bay in 2006, Pickett has had to deal with Jackson three times, and if Jackson had gained just two more yards in ’06, he’d have three 100-yard games against the Packers.
The last meeting, in ’09 was the only one against a Capers-coordinated unit. Playing on a team that had little else in the way of offensive threats, Jackson topped the 100-yard mark by the end of the third quarter and finished with 27 carries for 117 yards. He also had five receptions for 46 yards, giving him 163 yards from scrimmage, nearly half of the Rams’ total of 336 that day.
Two years later, Jackson is still probably the best offense the Rams have to offer. St. Louis has its quarterback of the future in Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010, and he protects the ball well for a young signal-caller. He has thrown just one interception in 151 pass attempts this season, but it’s expected the Rams will be in the market to deepen their receiving corps in next year’s draft.
Jackson, who has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in six straight seasons, has yet to hit his stride in 2011 due to a thigh injury. He has only 23 carries for 124 yards so far this year, though he does have a 47-yard touchdown, his longest run since November of 2009.
He’s not listed on the St. Louis injury report this week, however, and, as a result, Pickett and the Packers are expecting his powerful, high-knees running style to be full speed.
“You catch one of those in the head or the thigh, that’s pretty much a wrap,” Pickett said of Jackson’s knees. “He just runs with bad intentions. It’s tough for anyone to bring him down. He refuses to get tackled by the first guy.”
That sounds a lot like Atlanta’s Turner, whom the Packers have handled since he rushed for 110 yards against Green Bay in Week 12 of last season. In the last two meetings between the Packers and Falcons, in last year’s playoffs and then again last week, Turner has been held to 95 combined yards rushing on 26 carries.
Pickett’s view is that Jackson isn’t much like Turner at all, though, because he has more potential for game-breaking runs.
“He’s a whole ’nother animal, if you ask me,” Pickett said. “Steven Jackson goes anywhere. Turner goes where the play is designed, but Jackson has the ability to cut backside and take it out for 80 yards.”
Therein lies the conundrum for how to defend Jackson. It takes a gang-tackling type of mentality but, at the same time, defenders can’t be so anxious to help a teammate that they leave their own gap uncovered. Jackson is fast and powerful enough to exploit that.
“That’s why I say we have to be real disciplined,” Pickett said. “You have to take care of your own assignment.” Additional coverage - Oct. 13