RENTON - With everyone gushing over impressive rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, it's easy to forget that the St. Louis Rams' best player remains running back Steven Jackson.
“Steven Jackson is the real deal, and has been for a long time,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “He’s had another big year.”
The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder is the only St. Louis player to make this year’s Pro Bowl. He earned his third trip to the game in Hawaii by rushing for more than 1,000 yards for the sixth straight season, helping ease the pressure on Bradford by providing a steady running game.
The Seahawks have done a decent job against Jackson over the years; he has never rushed for over 100 yards against them in his seven-year career.
Sunday will be the third straight week the Seahawks face a bruising runner. They held Atlanta’s Michael Turner in check, keeping him to 82 yards. But Tampa Bay’s LeGarrette Blount ran wild last week, finishing with 164 yards on 18 carries.
Seattle defensively is giving up 123.7 yards a game, 22nd in the league.
Seahawks defensive tackle Colin Cole understands that he and his teammates have to eliminate the run threat provided by Jackson in order to force Bradford to beat them in what will be a hostile environment at Qwest Field.
“It always starts with Steven Jackson,” Cole said. “They’re not going to put the whole offense on Bradford’s shoulders and expect him to win the game for them. It’s not going to happen.
“They’ve got one of the top-five running backs in the game in their backfield, and he makes that team better. And he’s going to be the No. 1 threat that we have to take away from them as best as we can.”
Jackson said he’s excited to be playing in a meaningful game at the end of the year for the first time since his rookie season.
“You look around the league and see your peers, guys you were drafted with, play in Super Bowls and achieve a lot of things – you kind of want that,” Jackson said.
“This is what we all play for.”
WHITEHURST SAYS HE’S READY TO START
For the second straight day reserve quarterback Charlie Whitehurst took all the reps with the first unit on Thursday, and starter Matt Hasselbeck watched from the sideline during the team’s afternoon practice.
Whitehurst, who would make his second career start if gets the call on Sunday, said the work with the first unit has helped, and he’s prepared to face St. Louis.
“They really get after it,” Whitehurst said.
“They play hard and put pressure on you as an offense. So we’re going to have to be on top of it. And we’ll try to run it, try to throw it and score points.”
Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said Whitehurst has looked good in practice, and it helps that he’s getting first-unit reps this week in anticipation of playing on Sunday.
“He’s playing well right now,” Bates said. “He’s throwing the ball hard. He’s moving around in the pocket.
“The tough thing about our offense is if you’re the starting quarterback you get every rep, and that’s what I’ve always believed. That’s what we did in Tampa, it’s what we did in Denver, New York. ... and the backup quarterback doesn’t really get any reps – it has to be mental reps.”
Along with Hasselbeck, receiver Brandon Stokley (head) did not practice Thursday. Linebacker Lofa Tatupu (knee) and Olindo Mare (back) returned to practice.
ROGERS WR BRANDON GIBSON IMPRESSES
Former Washington State and Rogers High receiver Brandon Gibson has worked his way into a starting job in his second season with St. Louis.
Gibson is the second-leading receiver for the Rams. He has started 12 games, compiling 50 receptions for 590 yards and two touchdowns.
“He kind of went through the struggles of a rookie, then a second-year guy, and he kind of found his groove early in the season,” St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo said of Gibson.
“And I know Sam (Bradford) has a lot of confidence in him, and that’s a good thing when you’re a wide receiver if the quarterback likes throwing the ball to you.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 Eric.email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks