It's difficult to restock on talent at this point in the season. Most teams will be featuring players that have spent the entire offseason with the roster, building up familiarity and experience in the system. It's why the Patriots seem to rotate the same three or four players off of the practice squad whenever an injury requires, instead of signing the big name veteran du jour on the street.
Better the player you know than the one you don't.
The Patriots have brought in experienced players like WR Leonard Hankerson and OT LaAdrian Waddle, but no name turned more heads than the addition of running back Steven Jackson. It turns out that he already knows what to do.
"[Jackson] was in St. Louis with Josh [McDaniels]," head coach Bill Belichick explained. "So he has a lot better background on the offense than a lot of the guys we bring in here."
When McDaniels was studying abroad in Denver, he decided to spend a year in St. Louis before returning home to New England. In that year, he served as Offensive Coordinator for the 2-14 Rams and the bonds he created have led multiple Rams through the Patriots doors.
Offensive skill players Danny Amendola, Brandon Lloyd, Michael Hoomanawanui, Greg Salas, and Brandon Gibson all were a part of that 2011 Rams team, as was offensive tackle Kevin Hughes (currently on the Patriots injured reserve).
Jackson, in his eighth season as a professional, racked up 1,478 yards from scrimmage with 4.40 yards per carry. For Jackson, it was his most efficient season of rushing since his lead-leading 2,334 yards from scrimmage in 2006.
Attention has been drawn to the Patriots interest in Jackson during the 2004 draft, where New England ultimately selected Vince Wilfork. Belichick hadn't expected Wilfork to fall past the Chicago Bears, as Michael Holley shares in his book War Room. But the Patriots predraft interest didn't play too much of a role in this signing.
"Well again, Josh was with him in St. Louis so I think that's much more of a factor, in our offense, as an NFL player," Belichick explained when asked about the Patriots predraft interest. "I mean we had a great visit in Las Vegas, I'm not taking anything away from that, but I don't think there is any question about Jackson's intelligence, work ethic, character or anything."
The goal is for Jackson to take some snaps away from Brandon Bolden, and to allow Bolden to help a struggling special teams unit. What will Jackson's impact be in his first game of 2015?
"It's been a long time since he's been on a football field," Belichick points out.
"He was a great player. Where is he now? I don't know."