Monday, December 21, 2015

Patriots Sign Steven Jackson As Hired Gun For Balance Of Season

Bill Belichick waited until he saw what he had in the backfield, then made his move.

According to a plethora of media outlets, the New England Patriots head ball coach and defacto general manager has signed former Rams' and Falcons' runner Steven Jackson to a contract, nearly a full week after having the 6' 3", 225 pound veteran in for a workout, and the timing seems just about right.

Belichick's Patriots topped the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, going with the trifecta of big back Brandon Bolden, passing back James White and sledgehammer Joey Iosefa in the stead of injured running back LeGarrette Blount, who hit the IR with a trick hip that was blown out in last week's victory over the Houston Texans...

...and although he got the production he needed out of those three, the logistics involved with bringing Bolden to the forefront as the lead back for the rest of the season from his usual place as a core-four special teams ace apparently left a bad taste in Belichick's mouth.

In Sunday's win, Bolden didn't play on even one special teams package, and for a unit that's already struggling with turning the ball over and with Punt protection, that is apparently deemed unacceptable.

Make no mistake, Bolden did enough to show that he could carry the load at tailback and be competitive, but in the end Belichick probably feels that it spreads him too thin.

In Jackson, Belichick gets a 32 year old veteran who is a pro's pro, can run between the tackles and has enough speed to turn the corner if asked to - not to mention that he's pure smooth hell in the pattern, as his 460 catches for 3663 yards and nine touchdowns will attest. In other words, Belichick and the Patriots get a true every down back who is a proven commodity,

Strike that, I meant to say the Patriots get a true every down back who is a proven commodity AND who has fresh legs.

Leave it to the Dark Master to pull a coup like this. He gets an experienced ball carrier with solid hands and who is excellent in pass pro on what amounts to a five game rental. Many question what Jackson has left in the tank, but with fresh legs and the desire to show the world what he does have left, it is a no-brainer to expect that Jackson can pull the wagon for five games, especially since there's a bye week smack in the middle.

For his career, Jackson has carried the rock 2,743 times for 11,388 yards and 68 touchdowns in his 11 NFL seasons, and while many fans are looking at this move as a reincarnation of Antowain Smith or Corey Dillon it should be recalled that Dillon was 30 when he joined the Patriots and subsequently enjoyed his finest season in the pros, while Smith was a spry 29, also enjoying his finest season upon his arrival in Foxborough.

It is also worth noting that Smith was done with the Patriots when he was 31, and Dillon was shown the door when he was 32, so as far as lead backs are concerned, Belichick is venturing into uncharted waters - but if platooning with Iosefa and White, there is precedence for success.

In the 2009 season, Kevin Faulk (32), Sammy Morris (33) and Fred Taylor (33) all platooned with Laurence Maroney to make up the 12th best running attack in the league, though Morris and Taylor broke down and didn't play a complete season - which should give some pause to the idea of bringing Jackson in, but in being a short-term hired gun, there really is no downside in the signing.

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