July 31, 2013 in Sports

RB Steven Jackson upgrades Atlanta Falcons’ passing attack

 

Jackson
(Full-size photo)

There’s a new name on the list of Matt Ryan’s top receiving targets.

It’s Steven Jackson.

For the first time in Ryan’s six seasons, the Falcons’ starting running back is a dual threat as a runner and receiver. Jackson has the most catches of any NFL running back in his nine seasons, a fact sometimes overshadowed by his eight straight seasons with 1,000 yards rushing.

Jackson, who left the Rams to sign a three-year, $12 million deal with the Falcons, is replacing Michael Turner, who was rarely used as a receiver out of the backfield.

The Falcons’ already potent offense now looks even stronger. Ryan can throw screen passes to Jackson when he’s not targeting tight end Tony Gonzalez and receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones.

Jackson’s versatility fits well with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s philosophy. Though Turner was a one-dimensional back as a starter, Koetter still brought a new emphasis to the screen pass last season as backup running back Jacquizz Rodgers ranked fourth on the team with 53 catches.

Koetter’s offense looked like a good fit when Jackson considered his options as a free agent.

“This team was pretty dynamic when it came to throwing screens, taking advantage of the defense being overly aggressive,” Jackson said Monday. “We have a number of playmakers on this team, wherever I can fit in on the package, whether it’s being a decoy or catching the screen making something happen down the field.”

Around the league

Matt Flynn is solidifying his role as starting quarterback for the Raiders one year after losing that same job in training camp in Seattle. With Russell Wilson set as starter in Seattle, Flynn was traded to Oakland in the offseason and has done his best to hold onto this opportunity to start in the NFL. … Houston has signed free agent Joe Mays after the linebacker was suspended and fined last season for a hit on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. Schaub told a Houston television station the hit was “water under the bridge.” … Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall has sprained ligaments in his right ankle and could miss the rest of training camp. … Colts rookie offensive lineman Khaled Holmes was carted off the field with a right ankle injury during Tuesday afternoon’s training camp practice. Team officials did not have an update on the severity of the injury. … Texans safety Ed Reed isn’t making any promises that he’ll be ready to go Sept. 9 against San Diego. He had surgery to repair a partly torn labrum on April 30. “I can tell you that it is close, but I can’t say that it is the first game because I don’t know.”


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