After a solid performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in his first real opportunity, St. Louis Rams running back Zac Stacy has made many believe he is the cure for the Rams’ woeful running game. The big question from this game is whether he is the real deal or did he just experience the positive results of facing a poor run defense that surrenders an average of 163 rushing yards per game?
At a quick glance, Stacy seems to be a much better fit for the offense with a running style more similar to former Rams great Steven Jackson. St. Louis let Jackson walk this past offseason to continue the rebuilding process thinking that second-year backs Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead would fill in and not miss a beat.
After three ineffective games and a game missed, it seems that Richardson is going right back to the role he fit into well last year, leaving the starting back position wide open for Stacy to take the reins. Experts around the league had stated that Richardson was not going to be a good fit to be a starting back in the league because he was simply too small to be effective on 20-plus runs a game. Stacy will have to put up some strong numbers the rest of the year to convince the Rams brass that they do not need to find an answer in the draft or possibly on the free agent market. The biggest problem in drafting another running back is that you are taking the chance on another unproven runner on an already young team. However, the free agent market seems to be pretty poor this year with Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones Drew as the only two possible No. 1 backs being available. That option will only exist if their current teams decide to let them walk.
Stacy performed well, picking up 78 yards on 14 carries. The most important part to Rams fans should be that he picked up 45 yards after contact, something Richardson never did well in his stints as a starter. Stacy also caused the Jaguars’ defense to miss on two tackles and provided the best pass protection we have seen from a Rams back all year. The Houston Texans run defense is giving up an average 126 yards per game which is tied for 27th in the league. With Houston’s pass defense and overall defense being No. 1 in yardage per game, you can expect the Rams to need Stacy to perform at a high level all game.
The Rams have a line of solid defenses coming up for the rest of the season that can give us a true read on Stacy’s abilities to be the starter. Stacy has the right tools to produce in this offense, but he lacks the top gear teams often look for in their starter as showcased by his 4.55-second 40-yard dash. If he can prove to have the power that Richardson lacks and the ball security that Pead has yet to learn, then he deserves to be the starter.
He will have to consistently show that he gains four or more yards a carry. I look for the Rams to leave him in as the starting tailback, but if his production drops off, look for the running back carousel to continue all season long. It is going to take a lot for Stacy to convince the Rams front office to not look for better options in the offseason, whether it be the draft or free agency, but if he holds up to last week’s performance, we can look forward to him sticking around for a while.