The past eight seasons have seen one player dominate the bulk of the carries in the St. Louis Rams’ backfield. Steven Jackson isn’t walking through that door this offseason (rather, he’s walking through it with the Atlanta Falcons) so the Rams will have to replace that production with a different source in 2013. That new source could be a story of redemption as the team will likely give last year’s second round pick Isaiah Pead every opportunity to dominate the workload this coming season.
Jackson gobbled up 69 percent of the club’s carries (2,261 of 3,284) along with 71 percent of their actual rushing yards (9,462 of 13,259) according to Sports Illustrated. No one player will be asked to replace S-Jax in the St. Louis lineup, but the team will rely on a group of backs to pick up the slack.
Pead will obviously be a part of that group, but fellow second-year players Daryl Richardson and Terrance Ganaway will be in the mix along with fifth rounder Zac Stacy from this past April. Only Richardson and Pead have actually seen NFL carries leaving the entire backfield with 108 career totes in the league.
That can be a scary proposition for a team so used to consistency at the position, but not nearly as scary as last season was for Pead. As a rookie he was set back by a league rule that incoming rookies cannot participate in OTAs if their respective school has not yet gone through the graduation process. This led to a limited experience for Pead as a rookie as he saw only 42 of 1002 offensive snaps.
There’s no doubt that will be changing in 2013 even though he is suspended for the opening week due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The bulk of his action came in the season’s final game last year against the Seattle Seahawks where Pead carried the ball on five of eight plays during a drive in the third quarter. His first two runs went for seven yards apiece, and his final total of 21 yards was his best of the season.
Head coach Jeff Fisher cited that game when discussing Pead’s potential heading into 2013 as he said:
“When he carried in games, he was very impressive. He stayed ‘up and alive’ and was ready to play here and there in games in different packages. We got to the point in the (Seattle) game where we wanted to give him something to ride into the offseason program with.”
Pead certainly embraced the opportunity to finally get into a rhythm carrying the football in a live game in the season’s 17th week. He doesn’t let the success he had in that game take away his focus from what’s ahead, however. Pead said:
“There’s competition, but who doesn’t want to be in a competitive atmosphere? I’m all for it, we’re all for it. We’re not enemies; we still help each other, ask questions, things like that. But you need competition out there. I look at that opportunity every day, whether it be Steven being gone, or somebody getting the question wrong and I get the question right. Every small opportunity I get, I try to capture it.”
Despite his tumultuous rookie ride, Pead appears to be the ideal candidate to really thrive in a running back by committee approach that the Rams figure to employ in 2013. His perseverance will likely be rewarded by some serious action lining up seven yards behind quarterback Sam Bradford on a weekly basis.