The Patriots offense has been somewhat one-dimensional all season. In one win – a Week 7 victory over the Jets – Tom Brady was the team's leading rusher as New England barely even tried to run the ball throughout.
So when the team announced the signing of veteran running back Steven Jackson it was fair to wonder what if any impact the acquisition would mean. The Patriots haven't run it very often – or well when they have tried – and at 32 Jackson's best days are behind him.
Still, there's a belief, albeit somewhat antiquated, that team's need to be able to run the ball at least as a diversion in order to win big in the playoffs. Considering the banged-up nature of the Patriots backfield, it was also safe to wonder if the team had a back capable of contributing to January success.
So this week's Samsonite Make Your Case questions is: Will Steven Jackson make an impact on the Patriots during the stretch run?
PFW's Paul Perillo says...
I was very excited when I learned that Jackson was joining the team. While I am by no means a huge proponent of the running game, it is necessary to keep defenses honest, pick up short-yardage and to kill the clock. Without Jackson the Patriots had no one that I felt comfortable with in that role. Jackson is 32 so his best days are clearly behind him, but if he can carry the ball 10-12 times between the tackles, avoid turnovers and move the chains when needed he'll provided a huge boost to the offense. The Patriots have operated without a running game most of the season and that puts a lot of pressure on Tom Brady and his receivers. It will be nice to have an option from time to time and Jackson will provide one. I don't expect him to start racking up 100-yard games, but he's more than capable of replacing LeGarrette Blount.
PFW's Andy Hart says...
I'm not convinced the Patriots offensive line is capable of consistently opening holes in the running game and Jackson isn't going to magically make that any different. Maybe if this were five years ago, but at 32 Jackson is in no position to transform the offense in any discernible way. I have no problem with the signing considering how depleted the running back corps is, but I'm not expecting any significant changes in terms of the production with him in the fold. Jackson should get some carries here and there but this offense is and remains all about Tom Brady and the passing game. As long as Brady has some time to throw, and some receivers to throw to, New England's offense will be fine. If that's not the case, I don't believe that Jackson, at the age of 32 and not having played all year, will do anything to change that.