Jackson, Jenkins Earn Team Awards

Posted Dec 31, 2012

It’s that time of year again, awards season where teams around the league hands out a variety of awards to players for their performance over the course of the year.

The Rams handed out their hardware on Monday afternoon as running back Steven Jackson and cornerback Janoris Jenkins were honored for their work during the 2012 season.

Taking home the highest honor was Jackson, who was voted the recipient of the Daniel F. Reeves award. That trophy goes to the player deemed to be the team’s most valuable during a given season as voted on by his teammates and coaches.

This is the fifth time Jackson has taken home the honor in his nine-year career and the fourth consecutive season for it.

Jackson wasn’t done there, either, as he also claimed the Carl Ekern Spirit of the Game award, a prize established in 1990 and given to the player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, work ethic and commitment to his teammates.

“Steven ran away with all of the awards,” coach Jeff Fisher said.

This is the first time Jackson has won the Ekern award. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis won it in 2011.

It’s fitting that Jackson would take home both awards in 2012 as he once again served as the emotional and physical center of the team.

For Jackson, the awards have meaning more from a big picture sense than anything individual.

“It means a lot,” Jackson said. “These young guys, this particular team is very talented and a group that came along a lot faster than a lot of guys probably assumed that we would. The tide is turning around here and the feeling is different.”

Once again elected a team captain by his peers before the season, Jackson led the Rams with 1,042 yards and four touchdowns on 257 carries and has chipped in another 321 yards on 38 receptions.

Along the way, Jackson has continued to make his mark on both the franchise and league record books. He became the 27th player in NFL history to reach 10,000 rushing yards for his career against Minnesota on Dec. 16 and has since moved into 26th place in league history with 10,135 for his career.

Additionally, Jackson tied Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson for second on the Rams’ career rushing touchdown list when he scored his 56th against Tampa Bay. He’s also moved into second on the team’s all time scrimmage yards list (13,362) and in receptions with 407.

Jackson also became just the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons. That put him in elite company with Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, Thurman Thomas and LaDainian Tomlinson as the only players to reach that milestone.

“That’s always a must for a running back, consistently year-after-year,” Fisher said. “It’s not going to be easy against this defense, but that will be a motivating factor for them, I’m sure.”

Jenkins, meanwhile, emerged as the team’s rookie of the year despite some really stiff competition. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers, wide receiver Chris Givens and kicker Greg Zuerlein are among those with a legitimate claim to the ward for their first-season performance.

But ultimately it was Jenkins who stood above the rest. End Robert Quinn claimed the award last year.

While he’s had his share of ups and downs this season, Jenkins seemed to be round into form at the end of his first season, which could provide a springboard to even bigger things next year.

“Yeah he is, he’s playing well,” Fisher said. “That’s what I said, the last three or four weeks he’s really been playing well. It’s hard to play the position just by its nature, but for him to make the plays he’s making, especially over the last few weeks, implies that he’s getting better.”
For the season, Jenkins proved to be one of the team’s most dynamic and timely play makers. He led the team with four interceptions and returned three of those for touchdowns, tying the NFL rookie record in that category with Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott and Lem Barney.

Adding those three pick-6’s to his fumble return for a touchdown against San Francisco on Dec. 2 gives Jenkins four defensive touchdowns on the year, the only rookie in team history to achieve that feat.

Jenkins also ranks first on the team in pass breakups, sixth on the team in tackles and played an integral role in a key safety in the aforementioned San Francisco game as well.

All of that should put Jenkins in the running for more hardware, possibly including the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

“There’s some good players out there, but I think his numbers, especially the touchdown numbers from a defensive standpoint is quite impressive,” Fisher said. “So, I think he’d probably get a mention.”

BRING ‘EM BACK: Standing before his team one final time in 2012, Fisher told the entire group he’d like to have them all back next year.

Even as unrealistic as that might be, Fisher acknowledged how close this year’s team is to one another and legitimately would like to have the same group back though that’s not really even an option.

“I told the team I want to have every single unrestricted free agent back,” Fisher said.

The Rams will have some key decisions to make on their own free agents, a list that includes receivers Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson, offensive linemen Robert Turner and Barry Richardson, defensive lineman William Hayes, cornerback Bradley Fletcher and safety Craig Dahl, among others.

SICK FOR PETERSON: Rams running back Steven Jackson has a well-documented affinity for the history of the NFL, particularly at the running back position.

And though Jackson is a big fan of Eric Dickerson because of the organizational ties, he couldn’t help but feel terrible Sunday when he found out that Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson came tantalizingly close to breaking Dickerson’s season rushing mark only to fall just short.

Peterson rushed for 199 yards against Green Bay on Sunday, leaving him just 9 yards short of passing Dickerson’s mark of 2,105 yards set in 1984.

“I want to throw up for him,” Jackson said. “To come that close, I wish he would have just broke the record. What he’s been able to accomplish this year, what he stands for, the way he plays the game, he has all of my respect and all of my love. If anyone was going to break the record I would want someone like him to do it because he plays the game the right way.”

Peterson finished with 2,097, making him just the seventh back in league history to break the 2,000-yard barrier. While he didn’t get the record, he did get a nice consolation prize in the form of a win over the Packers and a playoff bid.