While many 30-plus year-old running backs are losing touches and even their starting jobs to fresher legs, Fred Jackson is still running with the quickness and explosiveness of a rookie and the experience and smarts of a vet.
At the age of 33, Jackson is the oldest running back in the National Football League. Even with an explosive game-breaker like Spiller stealing touches, Jackson has kept his role as the go-to guy out of the backfield in Buffalo, and rightfully so.
Despite having 12 fewer rushes than Spiller through Buffalo’s first three games (25 to 37), Jackson has a better yards-per-carry average and has seen more work in the passing game, averaging 4.8 yards-per-carry to Spiller’s 4 and has 118 receiving yards to Spiller’s 57.
By no means am I knocking Spiller. Spiller is also an incredible player and the Bills are extremely lucky to have two, start-worthy running backs, but what Jackson does on the field at his age is absolutely incredible.
Jackson is well-known for being one of the most successful running backs in league history to come out of a division-III college, and has expressed that his indirect path to the NFL through the IFL and NFL Europe has been a huge motivator for him his entire career.
When you watch Jackson play football, it’s as though he expresses that motivation through the way he plays the game. He plays like it’s overtime in the Super Bowl every time he touches the ball, he fights for every single yard, and he NEVER takes a play off. His is the type of perspective the typical first-round pick stud will never have.
I feel as though Jackson’s path to the NFL not only motivates him to play well, but to stay in shape and give himself the chance to play as many seasons in the NFL as his body will allow him. Perhaps he feels as though he’ll have to play longer to have the same type of career that quarterbacks who were drafted directly into the NFL have.
While Jackson is technically second to Spiller on the depth chart, he is for all intents and purposes, a starter in the NFL. The only other starting running backs in the league over the age of 30 are Steven Jackson with Atlanta (31), Frank Gore with San Francisco (31), and DeAngelo Williams with Carolina (31). Despite being two years older than those three, he has a better yards-per-carry average over the past four seasons (4.6), than Steven Jackson (4.0), Gore (4.4), and Williams (4.4).
Jackson is truly an anomaly.
Jackson has not gotten the attention and respect he deserves throughout the league, but if national attention is what Jackson wanted, he wouldn’t have stated that he wants to remain a Buffalo Bill for the remainder of his career.
Jackson signed a one-year contract extension this past July that keeps him in Buffalo through the 2015 season. Many figure it will be Fred’s last year and that he will retire at the age of 34, but I heard Canton ordered one running back via FredEx and the status updates say he’s going to take a few more years to arrive.
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