ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons on Thursday released running back Steven Jackson, who in two seasons with the team couldn't recapture his 1,000-yard form that made him one of the league's top backs with the Rams.
The release of Jackson, 31, was not a surprise. He led the team with 707 yards rushing and six touchdowns in 2014, but averaged only 3.7 yards per carry. In 2013, his first season with the Falcons, he had 543 yards rushing in 12 games.
Jackson was a first-round pick by the Rams in 2004. He had a streak of eight straight seasons of more than 1,000 yards rushing, including career-high totals of 1,528 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2006.
Jackson has had at least 20 catches in 10 straight seasons, including a career-best 90 receptions in 2006.
The Falcons, expected to have a defensive makeover under new coach Dan Quinn, the former Seattle defensive coordinator, also could have a new look on offense. Running backs Jacquizz Rogers and Antone Smith could be unrestricted free agents.
Devonta Freeman, who was second on the team with 248 yards rushing as a rookie last season, could be the team's only returning running back.
The release of Jackson solidifies expectations the Falcons will look for help at running back through the draft or free agency.
The team is expected to look for pass-rush help with the No. 8 overall pick, and running back is another priority.
Jackson already was the NFL's active leading rusher when he signed a three-year, $12 million contract with Atlanta on March 14, 2013. He ranks 16th with 11,388 yards rushing in 11 seasons. Among active players, Frank Gore is next with 11,073 yards to rank 20th.
Jackson was looking for a winner and a chance to return to the playoffs when he signed with Atlanta. Instead, the Falcons were a combined 10-22 the past two seasons and Mike Smith was fired as coach following a 6-10 finish in 2014. Jackson hasn't been to the playoffs since his 2004 rookie season.