Through the first four weeks of the NFL season, no team has proven more inept at running the ball than the St. Louis Rams. After nearly a decade of success with Steven Jackson ruling the backfield, the Rams have seen a serious decline in production this season. While Jackson hasn’t exactly made the team regret its decision given his injury issues with the Atlanta Falcons, there’s no doubt the Rams need some semblance of a ground game to improve on offense.
Something has to change for this team which ranks 30th in total offense and 32nd (dead last) running the ball. Head coach Jeff Fisher didn’t beat around the bush as he said:
“We’re going to have to, as we’ve already started, kind of adjust our offensive philosophy to, I think, what’s probably better suited for us right now. And that’s to hand it off, and everything else spins off of that.”
With just 189 total rushing yards in four games this year, that certainly hasn’t been the case thus far. Daryl Richardson has proven incapable of carrying the load, the team obviously doesn’t trust Isaiah Pead to be the feature back after deactivating him against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4, and Zac Stacy is just a rookie. This trio of youngsters was expected to provide a variety of running styles to the backfield, but the reality is that the only style they have managed is incompetence.
Fisher commented on the personnel issues that are present in the backfield saying:
“We’ll evaluate the running back situation based on the types of things we come up from the run game need. We’re going to look at it this week, and we’ll definitely have a plan in place when we come back.”
After playing on Thursday in Week 4, the Rams did have the luxury of a long week to rethink things and hopefully return to the field this coming Sunday with a renewed purpose. Obviously the ground game is very dependent on the ability of the guys up front to open up holes, and thus far this season the offensive line has proven incapable of doing that.
It’s hard to gain an offensive rhythm when a team is as reliant on the passing attack as the Rams have been so far in 2013. The running game keeps down and distance situations manageable while also acting to keep opposing defenses honest. Those fundamental things have been obviously absent from the Rams’ attack this season.
In what appears to be a back to the drawing board situation for the St. Louis ground game, at least they have a prime opportunity to get healthy this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags are ranked at the bottom of the league in run defense giving up over 20 yards more than the next most incompetent team at 164.2 yards per game on average. If the Rams can’t get their running game back on track this week, there may be no hope for the backfield this season.