Running back is becoming a prehistoric position in many backfields around the NFL, but the St. Louis Rams remain a team with an affinity for the ground game. With two draft choices spent on ball carriers in the 2012 NFL Draft, it may seem odd that the franchise would use yet another precious selection on a back this past April. If rookie Zac Stacy can take his opportunity by the horns, though, it could prove to be a very wise decision.
With news coming down that second-year back Isaiah Pead will be suspended for the first game of the regular season, his role with the club will be a bit of a mystery even after training camp. The Rams were counting on Pead to make up one half of the two-headed running attack with Daryl Richardson in the coming season, but this setback could cost him valuable reps and has certainly been costly from an image standpoint.
Any time a player gets suspended it puts his reliability in doubt. After nearly a decade with the epitome of dependability in the backfield in Steven Jackson, there’s no doubt the Rams will be looking to replace that presence any way that they can. Richardson did beat Pead out a year ago for the second string spot behind Jackson so this may just be further affirmation that he is the lead dog going forward.
Still, that won’t be enough for a running game that needs to help take pressure off of quarterback Sam Bradford under center. Stacy is a bruiser at 5’8” 216lbs. with the ability to drive his legs through tackles and pick up the extra yards after contact. His presence will be welcomed after watching S-Jax do similar work in the Edward Jones Dome for the past nine seasons. He may not be the speediest back in the league, but Stacy has enough lateral quickness to evade would-be tacklers in open space and make the most of his opportunities.
In a Rams backfield that will have three components, Stacy is going to play a pivotal role. Both Richardson and Pead are in the same mold at 5’10” 197lbs. so a change of pace back with more power to bludgeon defenses between the tackles will help to soften things up for bigger gains on the edge. There is no way to replace a stalwart like Steven Jackson with just one player so the idea of running back by committee in year one A.S.J. (After Steven Jackson) is a sound strategy.
If I had to guess, Stacy will find his niche as the short yardage back for Jeff Fisher and company in a similar way to how LenDale White did during Fisher’s days with the Tennessee Titans. Neither Richardson nor Pead may be Chris Johnson just yet, but Stacy could be the complementary piece that either one or both of them need to find success.