The rising and setting of the sun, death and taxes, and the St. Louis Rams having a 1,000-yard rusher; for the better part of the past decade, those three things have been certainties that were taken for granted. Now the Rams face some real concerns with their backfield situation as Steven Jackson is set to void his deal with the team and become a free agent on March 12. One thing is for sure and that is the fact that the Rams will need to still find a way to be productive on the ground in 2013; with or without SJ39.
While Jackson may still be back in St. Louis even though he is going to void the final year of his deal prior to March 12, the possibility remains that he will be wearing a different uniform in 2013. If that is the case, life will go on for the Rams, but how can they replace his consistency and production in the backfield?
The obvious place to begin in with last year’s trio of rookies on the depth chart Isaiah Pead, Daryl Richardson, and Terrance Ganaway. Even though Richardson was the most productive of the three in 2012, the Rams still have plenty of confidence in Pead, their second round pick. Head Coach Jeff Fisher told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine that Pead wasn’t drafted to be a change of pace back for S-Jax, but to be “the guy”.
Despite not being the hulking back the Jackson is, both Pead at 5’10” 197lbs. and Richardson at 5’10” 196 showed that they can be productive at one point or another during their rookie campaigns. According to General Manager Les Snead: “Pead toward the end of the year, Daryl at the beginning and middle, proved they can play in the league. They will all have a role. Richardson is going to have a role. Pead is going to have a role. They are all going to have a role and we are going to utilize those roles.”
While the fact that each player has a niche on the Rams roster is nice, that won’t replace the staggering decade long body of work that Jackson has put up in St. Louis. If he doesn’t return to the franchise that has seen every moment of his NFL career in 2013, the team will need to find another option in the backfield.
The team is lacking in salary cap space to land a big time free agent and given the fact that S-Jax will be the biggest name on the market, that doesn’t seem like a plausible solution. What could be more likely is that with two first round selections, the Rams take a chance on Alabama Crimson Tide ball carrier Eddie Lacy. Bama has been cranking out NFL-ready backs like an assembly line recently and this kid is no exception. At 5’11” 231lbs. he is built low to the ground and looks very similar to SJ39 with the hair and his bruising running style.
While some question the speed of Lacy who didn’t get to run the 40-yard dash at the Combine due to a hamstring injury suffered during training that really shouldn’t be an issue. Some believe he will be in the 4.5 to 4.6 range while Lacy claims he is in the 4.4 area. One thing to remember is that these are only numbers after all. Jackson ran a 4.55 when he was coming out in 2004 and things turned out alright for him. If Lacy does come to the Rams and has anywhere near the career of his predecessor, I don’t think the team will have any problems with that.