Prior to training camp, Steven Jackson admitted that his 2013 season with the Atlanta Falcons did not go as planned. Injuries broke his streak of 1,000-yard seasons and essentially made his debut in Atlanta unproductive. Jackson is determined to change that in 2014. However, injuries struck again and the running back has been out since the first week camp. Expected to return before the end of the preseason, what does this mean for both Jacquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman?
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, head coach Mike Smith believes Jackson could return sooner rather than later after suffering a hamstring injury in late July. Originally, Jackson's diagnosis did not appear positive. IT was reported that the Atlanta Falcons feared he was at risk of rupturing his hamstring altogether and pulled the veteran from training camp. However, rehab has been going well for Jackson and he is preparing to return with the guarantee of being 100 percent by the Week 1.
"We are encouraged by what he has done over on that side with athletic performance," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said, via the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "It's going to depend on the individual in terms of how he feels and once the doctor gives him the clear to go, then he will go."
Smith is hopeful that Jackson can suit up and get some playing time in the team's final preseason game against the Tennessee Titans even though a majority of the starters will be sitting. Jackson needs some game-time experience before heading into the regular season. However, in his absence, Rodgers and Freeman have been getting plenty of field time and benefitting from the increased playing time.
In terms of fantasy football, Jackson cannot be trusted. The running back might be reaching his peak. Injuries kept him in and out last season and an early hamstring issue does not put much confidence into this year being any different. Last season he put up just 542 yards in 12 games. He never broke 100 yards in a game. Jackson might be No. 1 on the depth chart and considered the primary back, but stats might show a different story throughout the season.
The real battle will be between Rodgers and Freeman. The rookie has impressed in the preseason. In the first game, he put up 100 yards after being an active rusher and receiver. He appears to be a little more well-rounded than Rodgers, or at least have better hands. However, Rodgers will be very active on special teams and could see action as a return man, tag-teaming with Devin Hester.
Hester could develop into a solid fantasy sleeper pick. Obviously the wide receiver will be the primary return man for the Falcons given his spot in the NFL record book, but Atlanta is determined to bring him back as a receiver and for any fans keeping up with HBO's Hard Knocks can see that Hester is going well revisiting his original position. The Falcons might have the top tandem in Julio Jones and Roddy White, but Hester and Harry Douglas are not meant to be slept on.