There’s a vacancy in the St. Louis Rams’ backfield for the first time in a long time for this upcoming season. After a decade of production from stalwart Steven Jackson, the organization turns the page on what was one of their most productive rushing times in franchise history. That new chapter is likely to feature more than just one player to replace someone the caliber of S-Jax, but one of those names is Isaiah Pead.
He didn’t do himself any favors by getting suspended for Week 1 of the upcoming season, but Pead still figures to be in the mix for plenty of carries in 2013. That has to be encouraging news for him after a discouraging rookie season which saw him get passed on the depth chart by fellow rookie Daryl Richardson and only accrue 10 carries during the entire season.
That number figures to increase significantly in a backfield that still has both him and Richardson as the two returning members. Rookie bruiser Zac Stacy figures to be a part of the mix in short yardage and goal line situations, but it’s unlikely he will take many carries away from the two second-year players.
Another matter worthy of discussion is the fact that the Rams have transitioned from a run-first offense to what, at least on paper, appears to be a more pass-oriented attack in 2013. Adding a stalwart left tackle like Jake Long to protect the blindside of quarterback Sam Bradford along with a speedy playmaker like Tavon Austin in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft will likely change the dynamics in St. Louis this coming season.
Speaking of Austin, he too could be in competition for some touches on the ground in this offense. It’s likely none of these guys will eclipse 200 carries on the year so being a workhorse like S-Jax was previously is out of the question for Pead.
Pead is more of an edge rusher anyway with good receiving skills that could lead to him catching plenty of passes on designed plays and check downs during the season. Fumble issues must be addressed before the playing time can increase for Pead as well after he put the ball on the ground twice in very limited action a year ago.
Training camp is likely to show just how the Rams plan to sort out their jumbled backfield at the moment. Pead and Richardson are very similar players at 5’10” 197lbs. so they will likely steal carries when one or the other is hot. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Rams run some split back sets with both players behind Bradford as well to keep defenses honest to every element that the team will have to offer offensively.
Even with his suspension for the opening game, Pead will see plenty of action in camp and throughout the preseason to get him integrated into the offense. Missing out on the first game could leave him out of the equation, however, if someone gets off to a hot start in the backfield. All in all, this season will be whatever Pead makes of it. Staying on the straight and narrow should be priority number one with protecting the football being not too far behind.