I, like many a fantasy football player — not just Rams fans — drafted Steven Jackson as my first round workhorse. Working behind his new offensive line, and the positive effects of the Mike Karney Factor, and with a full preseason and training camp unmarred by contract negotiations, this was going to be SJ's breakthrough season. And he's played well, except for one galling thing:
No touchdowns. No "rolling the dice."
Jim Thomas touched on in Jackson's frustration in his post-game notes from the Rams' 42-6 loss to the Colts. And now Steve Korte of the Belleville News Democrat points out that the Rams are one of just two teams without a rushing touchdown. Both writers take pains to say that Jackson is being a good citizen about this — unlike, say Larry Johnson, who started an ill-advised twitter flame war with his fans.
So what's happening? The obvious answer is lack of opportunities — the Rams spend so little time in scoring position, that Jackson just hasn't had the chances. But digging deeper into the play-by-play, we've uncovered that there is actually a double-barreled reason why: not only have the Rams spent little time in the red zone, but Jackson sees the lowest percentage of touches there compared to anywhere else on the field. See for yourself, with this infographic, after the break:
Methodology: For this analysis, we looked at every offensive snap that wasn't a punt or kick, or called back due to penalty. Jackson's "touches" include runs and pass targets — both complete and incomplete.
We aren't sure what's going on with Shurmur's playcalling here, but the theme seems to be that the Rams are using Jackson as a workhorse in the middle of the field, but more as a blocker or a last resort in the red zone. And one thing that will come out in a companion graphic (if I get time) is that Jackson's yardage per touch goes down significantly inside the opponent's 20. But again, that might be a factor of limited opportunities.