Reports: Falcons, not Packers, get Jackson

Steven Jackson will not be heading to Green Bay.

According to multiple reports, the 29-year-old running back agreed to terms with the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday.

Jackson was reportedly considering the Packers and Falcons prior to joining Atlanta.

Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, spent the first nine years of his NFL career with the St. Louis Rams. Despite running for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past eight seasons, he’s never been on a team that finished with a record above .500 and hasn’t been to the playoffs since his rookie year in 2004.

Both the Packers and Falcons would have given Jackson a chance to finally join a winning franchise.

The Packers would have benefited from Jackson’s arrival. Four different running backs started games for Green Bay last season as the team finished 20th in the NFL in rushing yards. Alex Green, a third-round pick in 2011, led the Packers with 464 rushing yards. Veteran Cedric Benson began the regular season as the starter but suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 5. James Starks was a significant contributor as a rookie in 2010 to help the Packers win Super Bowl XLV, but injuries limited him to only 255 yards in 2012. Green Bay finished the season with undrafted DuJuan Harris as its featured running back, and he performed quite well with a 4.1-yard average and four touchdowns in 62 rushing attempts.

The Packers haven’t had a 1,000-yard running back since 2009. Former New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is the only proven player at that position remaining in the free-agent market and is coming off a 1,015-yard season.

During the 2012 season, opposing defenses often played two deep safeties and dared Green Bay to run the ball. Even with those looks, none of the Packers’ running backs was consistently able to take advantage of the situation. Aaron Rodgers’ statistics suffered a bit, as did Green Bay’s scoring, which fell from the NFL’s best in 2011 to fifth.

During the Scouting Combine in February, play-calling head coach Mike McCarthy expressed his desire to find a running back who can play every down. Jackson played 67.6 percent of the snaps last season with St. Louis, a number that ranked eighth among NFL running backs.

The Packers prefer to build through the draft, though, which could mean the team is strongly considering Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, who may be the best every-down back in this class.

“A three-down back is what you want to play with,” McCarthy said last month. “No one likes to come out of the game, and I’d rather them stay in the game (when I’m) calling plays. Three-down back is something that, as you go through the evaluation process, is something that’s part of their grade, part of their value.

“Just looking back at my experiences, it’s nicer when you have one guy and you’re feeding him. There’s more rhythm to your play-calling and there’s more of a rhythm to the run-blocking unit and the fits of the protection and so forth, and then you take it and extend it into the passing game with the checkdowns.

“In today’s game, there’s not too many of those guys out there. The fact of the matter is that’s a very demanding position. Your risk of injury is probably higher than at some other positions, particularly just in training camp and things like that.”

Jackson has been very durable throughout his career, missing only two games due to injury in the past four years. Bradshaw, by comparison, missed six games in that span. Green Bay could also re-sign Benson, who is currently an unrestricted free agent.

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