After a nail-biting season opening victory for the St. Louis Rams on their home turf, now the team must find a way to avoid putting itself in such precarious situations moving forward. There were several glaring deficiencies to take away from the Week 1 contest, but perhaps the largest issue was the lack of a running game.
Jeff Fisher and company had to expect a bit of a drop off this year after allowing veteran Steven Jackson to leave for the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason. The team turned the page to their dynamic duo of second-year running backs in Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead for 2013, but Pead didn’t even get a chance to prove himself in the opener due to a one-game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy.
After nothing special from Richardson in Week 1, however, Pead finds himself in an interesting situation heading into the second game of the season. Rookie Zac Stacy only garnered one carry so it’s clear the coaching staff isn’t going to hand the full-time gig over to him anytime soon. The competition for the lion’s share of the carries figures to be very much wide open after Richardson put up 20 carries for 63 yards and also had five catches for 33 yards. That paltry 3.2 yards per carry average is something that must improve if the Rams expect to have an offense that hums all season long.
Clearly Pead is going to factor into the equation, but he must improve his ball security issues after fumbles plagued him as a rookie and continued into the preseason. Fisher won’t stand for costly turnovers so Pead’s first game back will have to be clean from that perspective for him to garner serious consideration as a starter.
Following Sunday’s contest with the Arizona Cardinals, Fisher expressed a desire to get more balanced. He told ESPN:
“That’s one of those things you talk about improving, we have got to work on the run game. It’s a stout defense, but we are going to have to run the ball a little bit better as well.”
Clearly some of the credit for the Rams mustering just 2.8 yards per carry as a team on 24 totes does need to go to the Arizona defense, but the push of the offensive line has to improve as the year moves along. While they were impressive in protecting Sam Bradford, as it was one of the rare times the man under center wasn’t sacked during his tenure in St. Louis, the O-line must improve when it comes to paving the way for the running backs.
A Week 2 contest against a familiar face in Steven Jackson could inspire a better ground game from the Rams to prove they don’t miss their former ball carrier. Look for coach Fisher to make a concerted effort toward getting all of his backs involved and helping Bradford out with a more balanced attack. If offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer doesn’t dial up a few more runs against Atlanta, the Rams could be in for a long day in the Georgia Dome.