I have to admit it. I am one of the hundreds of people that doubted Fred Jackson throughout his career, and which he proved wrong in the end. My bad.
Last February, I typed a piece saying, in short, that signing Jackson to a contract extension would be unwise given his age. Buffalo's general manager at the time, Buddy Nix, disagreed and gave him a two-year extension worth $8.7 million over the course of the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He looks pretty smart for doing so right now.
Citing a litany of running backs who had fallen off the planet at age 30, I said Jackson would, too. In some ways, he has. He is averaging 4.1 yards per carry since signing the contract after never finishing a season below 4.2 yards per carry previously. He finished 2012 with 437 rushing yards and is on a sub-1,000 yard pace again in 2013. He's spent time out of the lineup with injuries in the past three seasons after playing 16 games in every season previously. Time is clearly catching up to Jackson.
That's not the whole story, though. In 2013, Jackson has stepped up in big spots when the Buffalo Bills needed him, both as a leader, a rusher, and a pass catcher. Despite rushing for just 344 yards, he's 16th in the NFL in that statistic during a down year from running backs. He's averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and is fifth with four rushing touchdowns. As a receiver, he's been dependable and hauled in 17 catches, which is well on his way to a career-high in that category (46 in 2009). In short, he's been the dependable backfield presence a young team needs with a rookie quarterback.
I really struggled to write this article. Not because I can't admit being wrong. I root for Jackson as hard as anyone. I struggled because I was right that his production would trail off, and a lot of you were right for telling me I was crazy and he would still be good. We've both been correct in certain ways.
Jackson's contract runs through the 2014 season. That February, Jackson will turn 34. Anyone want to bet against another contract extension?