49ers vs. Rams: Steven Jackson And The Rams Offense

ST. LOUIS MO - DECEMBER 19: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams slips a tackle by Jon McGraw #47 of the Kansas City Chiefs at the Edward Jones Dome on December 19 2010 in St. Louis Missouri. The Chiefs beat the Rams 27-13. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

As the 49ers prepare for this weekend's battle with the St. Louis Rams I was originally what about the Rams had them playing well. After all, they're in first place in the division but Sam Bradford has struggled lately and Steven Jackson is averaging below the league average in yards per rush. Of course, then I remembered that we're talking about NFC West and average or worse performances are enough to be decent.

I keep forgetting that the first place Rams are 6-8. The fact that Steven Jackson is only averaging 3.9 yards per carry isn't quite as surprising when we consider that fact. Over at Football Outsiders, Jackson ranks 40th in DYAR and 37th in DVOA among all running backs with at least 100 rushes. For those wondering, DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) gives the value of the performance on plays where this RB carried/caught the ball compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage. But again, it just doesn't matter in the context of the NFC West.

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky spoke with the media yesterday (transcript after the jump) and talked about Steven Jackson's last performance against the Rams:

On whether he feels they did a good enough job to contain Rams RB Steven Jackson last time they met and what it will take this time around:  
"No. You know, he's still a very good back, very great eyes, great vision, hard runner. He does all the little things to gain yards. We've got to make sure we stop him. That's part of their team, and they're going to try to focus to get him the ball. We've got to make sure he doesn't get it as many times as they want him to."

It's kind of a generic answer. However, when he mentioned trying to make sure Jackson doesn't get the ball as many times as the Rams want, it got me thinking. Jackson is a work-horse running back, but also a prominent feature in their passing game. He's similar to Frank Gore in that sense, particularly given the fact that he led the team in receptions recently. Now that they have a solid developing young QB that is probably changing, but it doesn't change the fact that he's prominently featured in their offense.

In their previous matchup, Jackson rushed for 81 yards and had 67 receiving yards. The 49ers certainly don't want to give up a big game to Jackson, but as has been the case during the recent down years for the Rams, they are not a team that goes as Jackson goes. He gets touchdowns in wins and losses. He gets big yards in wins and losses. Given all this, how do the 49ers prepare on the defensive side of the ball for this Rams team? If the Rams were 10-4 or something like that it might actually be easier to figure out what to do. Now it's just a mish-mash of who knows what.

Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky
Post Walk-Thru - December 22, 2010
San Francisco 49ers
  
On whether he knows who the starting quarterback will be:
"I coach the defense, that's all I know. I only focus on that."
 
On whether he sees a change in what teams are doing defensively as a reason for Rams QB Sam Bradford struggling in the past few weeks:
"I don't think so much. I think it's a long season, especially for a rookie. Every year that you play you kind of get used to it. He's in his bowl game, or past his bowl game, you know, with the games. For any rookie that comes in the game, playing 16 games plus the four preseason games is always a pretty taunting task because they're not used to it. Their bodies aren't used it, their minds aren't used to it, and sometimes it takes a toll on them."
 
On whether he will stick with a three-man rotation at linebacker:
"Yeah."
 
On whether there is any plan to get LB Thaddeus Gibson in the rotation:
"Thaddeus might get in there in third down situations. You know, it's kind of hard during the season if you pick up a young guy, and then in the process, he doesn't know the ins and outs about everything, but for the most part, yeah, I'd like to get him in there for some third downs, if we can."
 
On whether he has been able to form an opinion of Gibson:
"It's kind of hard, you know, even with DT Ricky [Jean-Francois] from last year and stuff, sometimes it's hard to see the practice players get in there, even though you've got a little bit of an awareness of what he can do and what he can't do, but it's still pretty hard."
 
On whether Gibson could be used for anything besides third downs:
"I think in situations we may be able to a little bit, but mostly on third downs."
 
On whether as a player he felt a sense of urgency toward the end of his career to get to the playoffs and how that applies to the team now:
"Yeah, I think you always do. I think we just have to focus on this game though. This is the most important game of the week, and for us, that's what we've got to take going into it."
 
On whether he feels they did a good enough job to contain Rams RB Steven Jackson last time they met and what it will take this time around:  
"No. You know, he's still a very good back, very great eyes, great vision, hard runner. He does all the little things to gain yards. We've got to make sure we stop him. That's part of their team, and they're going to try to focus to get him the ball. We've got to make sure he doesn't get it as many times as they want him to."
 
On how different it is to have an offense at home versus on the road:
"The crowd noise isn't a factor for us, so it's no biggie, in that regard, but you know, they just feel more comfortable I think, offenses, when they're at home more than anything."
 
On Bradford having the mindset and skills to be a very effective quarterback:
"Well, he's a competitor. He didn't have a good game last week, you know he's going to try to come out here and give it his all, and give it his best effort. They're in the same hunt that we're in, and I expect his best, as usual."
 
On what the loss of LB Travis LaBoy to injured reserve means to the defensive unit:
"You know with Travis, pretty good pass rusher. We're going to miss him. It was a little bit of a four-man rotation, and now, even though we're counting on Thaddeus a little bit, it's still going to be mostly a three-man rotation with those guys."
 
On whether he has been assured that DT Justin Smith will play against the Rams:
"I have not heard anything about..."
 
On whether he is expecting Justin Smith to play:
"I'm expecting him to play, yes."
 
On what he thought of LaBoy's performance before he got injured:
"Pretty good, you know. I always said I liked to have him as a young buck when he first came out, because of the pass-dropping skills that he kind of didn't have, because he didn't really drop that much. But you know he played pretty good, he had some pretty good rushes, and I think with more time and more reps, he'll become a pretty good player.
 
On whether he would be happy to have LaBoy back if he were healthy:
"Oh yeah, definitely. It'd be good to have Travis in the mix. Thanks. Merry Christmas to ya'll. And to all a good night.

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