Smith: Steven Jackson still an essential part of the Falcons' offense

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Fact: Steven Jackson once bit a rabid dog, immediately curing it

Fair statement: there were high expectations for Steven Jackson after he signed with the Falcons. It was, after all, a mutually beneficial relationship. Jackson needed a competitive team and the Falcons needed anyone better than Michael Turner.

But when Jackson injured himself diving for a touchdown and subsequently missed a quarter of the season, fans turned on him. Notwithstanding the ineptitude of the offensive line blocking for him, cries of "over the hill!" rang out. Fair criticism or not, it appears Mike Smith is still behind the veteran running back.

"Unfortunately, Steven was injured last year and we didn't really get a chance to see what he was capable of doing until the last four or five games," Smith said this week at the NFL Annual Meeting, per ESPN.com. "But you've got to have a big back when you have to get the two or three yards. Especially late in the season, you've got to be able to run the football."

Look, I'm not saying Jackson's overall performance in 2013 is entirely the offensive line's fault; however, when you're recovering from injury, lackluster blocking doesn't help. Do I think he's the running back he was six or seven years ago? Absolutely not. But do I think he's still got enough in the tank to help the Falcons win? Beyond a doubt.

As Smith himself acknowledges, the modern NFL necessitates a running-back-by-committee approach. Jacquizz Rodgers is a true dual threat, even if he's poorly equipped to be the feature back. There's a wealth of running back talent in this year's draft, more than in we've seen in recent years. The Falcons have a lot of draft picks, and there's a good chance they can find mid-round value.

In short, Jackson won't have to shoulder the entire load, but when he's needed, Smith is very confident in his abilities. Your thoughts?

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