It took five weeks for the St. Louis Rams to really give him a chance, but Zac Stacy has made the most of his time. Stacy quickly established himself as the starting back by bruising his way through defenses and I do mean through them. He is fearless in finding the holes and driving full speed into whoever stands in front of him. It has been fun to watch the fifth round selection explode onto the scene in St. Louis.
His rise to the top of the depth chart came on the failures of Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead before him. Richardson was penned to be the starter for the season after an impressive rookie campaign serving as the change of pace back behind former Rams great Steven Jackson who left for what was supposed to be greener pastures with the Atlanta Falcons. Richardson struggled out of the gate to get anything going on the ground, and St. Louis was left scrambling to find a replacement.
Stacy stepped in to fill the starting role with the downhill style that helped the Rams find their way. The offensive scheme changed from a pass heavy spread offense to a more effective ground and pound attack. Now Stacy is 42 yards from giving St. Louis their ninth straight season with a 1000-yard rusher. In the last 11 games he has rushed 234 times for 954 yards. His season average of 4.1 yards per carry is impressive considering the offensive woes outside of Stacy.
He has already rushed for the most yards in a rookie season by a player drafted in the fifth round. He is a part of the latest trend of finding feature backs in the later rounds. Gone are the days of selecting backs in the first round based on their college stats. Trent Richardson is serving as the cautionary tale to teams willing to take a running back early in the first round, and that makes Isaiah Pead the cautionary tale for second round picks.
It is just hard to predict whether a back can stay healthy and if he can make the jump from college to the pros where he is no longer a freak athlete. Instead, those guys have to learn that they can’t out run every player on the field. Reggie Bush had to learn that the hard way once he got into the NFL. The NFL is a different beast because these players can train all year and every team has players on defense that are just as fast as you, study your team’s plays, and learn what you can do and can’t do.
Stacy does a lot of things well that give him an advantage. He keeps a low pad level when hitting the hole making his already short, compact frame even tougher to bring down as he continues to drive his legs when there are five people trying to drive him backwards. Even when you hit him early he manages to drive you back gaining an extra two yards turning a negative play into a positive. Stacy is still learning how to make people miss once he gets to the second level, but in recent weeks he has broken off a couple of nice long runs.
St. Louis found a gem in Stacy in the fifth round of the draft so kudos to Les Snead and Jeff Fisher for taking him when they did. They could have just planned on Richardson and Pead being enough this year, but instead they grabbed him when they thought the time was right. I would say it was luck, but it didn’t seem like a lot of teams were talking about Stacy much when the draft was approaching. One thing is for sure, it will be fun to watch Stacy and Sam Bradford in this offense next season.