Steven Jackson has made the Pro Bowl three times in his career, but no season comes close to the productive numbers he put up in 2006 when he led the league in total yards from scrimmage with 2,334. The Rams toned down Jackson's role in the receiving game after that, but his new head coach in Atlanta thinks that the veteran back can still be a very viable threat as a receiver. Falcons head coach Mike Smith spoke briefly on how the team plans to use their new back (via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution):
"He’s a big strong running back that catches the ball extremely well. He creates issues for defenses. He’s just another weapon that we have in our offensive arsenal. He’s a guy who had close to 100 catches in a season, so he’s a guy that we can use in the passing game. He’s not just a running back, he’s a receiving back as well."
Jackson did catch 90 passes for 806 yards, but that was seven seasons ago. His second-most catches in a season is 51, when he made the Pro Bowl for the second time in 2009. Outside of his 2006 season, Jackson has averaged approximately 40 catches per year and remained very close to that number.
The Falcons started to phase out running back Michael Turner last year when they began to shift to an offense that favors more passing under offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. But Turner does not have an extensive history of catching the football, having caught just 70 passes total in his nine-year career. Atlanta replaced one veteran with another over the offseason, though one has a lot more experience as a receiver.
And they plan to use that skill of Jackson's this year.