Plenty of action ahead for Jackson

2012-05-25T09:35:00Z 2012-05-25T22:31:23Z Plenty of action ahead for JacksonBY KATHLEEN NELSON • knelson@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8233 stltoday.com

After eight years in the NFL, Steven Jackson has a wealth of background material with which to offer comparisons and contrasts.

He has thrived in the Rams' backfield through a half-dozen head coaches and just as many offensive coordinators, rushing for more than 1,000 yards seven consecutive years. The latest version of the Rams offense, under coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, seems to strike a balance: just enough of the familiar to ease the learning curve; just enough new stuff to keep it interesting.

Jackson said the portion he's seen so far, about 70 percent, closely resembles the scheme of coordinator Pat Shurmur, who worked under Steve Spagnuolo in 2009 and 2010 but left last year to take over as head coach in Cleveland.

"This offense is very similar, not identical," Jackson said. "The learning curve has not been too harsh on myself. Sam (Bradford) is looking good, our receivers, we have a deep group that is very competitive that's going to not only help us, but is also going to bring the best out of each individual guy. All in all, as an offense we're looking good. And especially Coach (Paul T.) Boudreau up front, what he's doing with the offensive line is very impressive as well."

Boudreau is a familiar face. He worked with the Rams' offensive line in 2006 and 2007 before joining the Falcons' staff. His goal will be to get the most out of the Rams' young tackles, Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold.

"We have some key additions up front," Jackson said of the offensive line. "What we have and what we brought here I think are going make us better as an offensive unit. I think it's going to actually help our tackles to play with some veteran guys from other systems. Our tackles, although they're young, they're very athletic. We can really do some big things once we get everyone jelling."

Fisher also has managed to keep practices interesting for the veterans with his own twists, mixing team sessions with conditioning games that are more relaxed.

"You can still compete and have fun and just enjoy each other," he said. "Things like that, that change the monotony of things but still get the job done, those little subtle things help form camaraderie and guys getting to know each other."

With his wealth of experience, Jackson should be a font of knowledge for the young players, particularly the running backs that the Rams drafted last month, Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson. Both complement, rather than compete with, Jackson's skill set. Jackson said he was impressed by Richardson's quickness.

"Everything that you read, everything that you saw is pretty legit," he said.

Pead, who was drafted in the third round out of Cincinnati, is another story. Cincinnati operates on the quarter system, meaning class is still in session. Hence, Jackson has yet to meet Pead but isn't concerned about his absence.

"I don't know much about Pead. I'm looking forward to meeting him, looking forward to mentoring him, playing with him," Jackson said. "The season doesn't start until September. You won't even remember that he wasn't here right now."

Jackson has been a leader for the Rams through many bad seasons and has spoken of wanting at some point to mentor younger backs. Now that the Rams' have invested in youth at the position, though, Jackson said he can't just hop on a soapbox in the locker room and start spouting pearls of wisdom to the masses.

"Those kinds of things happen gradually. You have to see where guys are at," he said. "You have to let natural relationships happen over time. I've had a chance to talk to quite a few of the rookies, most of them are very humble and they're very excited about the opportunity to play here in St. Louis. That's positive, that's a good thing looking forward. But any time I get a young running back in the room with me, and he has a question, I try to answer it. I try to answer it in a way that he gets it. Everybody learns differently. I've been fortunate enough that I'm able to be relatable in the situations and helping them understand certain things in the offense."

At this point, though, some rookies aren't ready for answers. They're not even sure of the right questions to ask.

"They're just overwhelmed not only with the information that they're receiving, but I'm pretty sure they've watched us over the years play football, so they have to get over the awe of it as well," he said. "But these guys, once you get in between the lines, they're doing a good job. They're football players."

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