August 18, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Daryl Richardson (26) carries the ball as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Jalil Brown (30) defends in the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Preseason Rookie Report Card: Pead, Johnson, and Richardson

On Tuesday we graded out the first three picks of the St. Louis Rams 2012 Draft. Thanks to GM Les Snead and the new Rams’ front office, the Rams generated a couple of additional picks in this years draft and, more importantly, a couple of 1st-rounders in 2013 and 2014, courtesy of the Washington Redskins. Today, we are going to finish up the rest of the 2nd-rounders, as well as the  lowly 3rd-round pick, Trumaine Johnson Here we go, picking up where we left off at Isaiah Pead on the rookie report card…

August 12, 2012; Indianapolis, IN USA; Indianapolis Colts corner back Justin King (21) tackles St. Louis Rams running back Isaiah Pead (24) during the first quarter of play in Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeated St. Louis 38-3. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-US PRESSWIRE

Isaiah Pead (Round 2, Pick 50) RB, Cincinnati

Over the past couple of years, the Rams’ front office has taken a hit for failing to find talent at a number of positions. At the top of that list may be a back-up running back for Steven Jackson, who despite his consistent production, has only played in all 16 games two times in his eight year career. In years past, the Rams opted to take the “vulture” approach, scraping up talent from the depths of NFL free agency. Last year, the front office went with the veteran approach, signing one-time, big name running backs, the likes of Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood. However, in retrospect, they should have realized that the premise of signing oft-injured player to back another oft-injured player would not reach a favorable conclusion. This year, the Rams finally took to the typical, tried-and-true approach of drafting our talent; enter Isaiah Pead.

Most fans had probably not heard of Pead, hailing from an up-and-coming Cincinnati program that traditionally has not grabbed headlines outside of southern Ohio. Pead immediately turned heads during OTAs, even after being set back due to the NCAA rule that he could not report to camp until after classes had finished. He left some so impressed that they began throwing around some seemingly outrageous statements. Earlier in camp, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah reported,

“I really liked him when I evaluated him,” Jeremiah said of Pead. “And from talking to the guys in St. Louis, I know they’re very high on him. Jeff Fisher sees some traits in him that remind him of Chris Johnson.”

So far in the preseason, Pead has definitely taken on the form of Chris Johnson, but resembles more of the 2011 first-half-of-the-season Johnson than the 2,000+ yard version. In two games, Pead has 16 carries for 27 yards, an abysmal 1.75 yards per carry. This number comes after a -5 yard rushing day against the Chiefs where Pead, in an attempt to reverse the field, lost 9 yards on a single play. With numbers like that, you would expect that his game against the Colts would vastly outrank his performance against the Chiefs. Alas, Pead played equally (well, maybe not exactly equal) as bad, scraping together 33 yards on 10 carries, for 3.3 yards per carry. However, even those mediocre number are inflated by his career-long 11 yard rush, meaning that, minus that attempt, he was rushing for 2.4 yards per carry. On top of that, he had a costly fumble that resulted in a turnover and points on the board for the Colts.

Not only has Pead failed to realize that he cannot rely solely on his speed at the professional level, but he has been hesitant to hit the same holes that Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson have coasted through during their reps. To make matters worse, Pead has seen a large chunk of his reps come against the second unit, which should lead to inflated stats, but instead have left Rams Nation scratching their head about what to think. He has been similarly poor in the passing game, although he has less control over his positioning as the check down man coming out of the backfield, and has displayed a noticeable lack of awareness in a couple of situations, most notably, stepping out of the back of the end zone on a would-be kickoff return.

However, it is the preseason and, like all rookies, Pead is still trying to work out the kinks of adjusting to the NFL For all the limited production, Pead does seem to be conscientious about the his performance and the need to improve. He had this to say following the loss against the Colts,

“I realize that I’ve got room to improve, lots of room,” Pead said. “That’s what I’m working hard to do. Get more confident and show some kind of improvement every day, whether it’s a little improvement or a lot.”

Hopefully with the coaching staff’s advice, Steven Jackson’s model, and a couple more games before the start of the season, Pead can improve upon the low bar he has set for himself in his first two outings. He won’t receive a failing grade from me (yet), but if his performance does not improve, the rumblings of a change in the depth chart at the running back position may start to grow louder.

Grade: D

July 27, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson (22) looks on during training camp at ContinuityX Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Trumaine Johnson (Round 3, Pick 65): CB, Montana

Trumaine Johnson had an interesting start as a St. Louis Ram, oversleeping and missing his flight to St. Louis for the start of rookie camp. During the preseason, “Tru” Johnson has worked primarily with the second and third team units, rotating with recently, former-Ram Josh Gordy and Jerome Murphy. Johnson has jumped, literally and figuratively, on the opportunity for playing time left open by the absence of Bradley Fletcher, who is out with a rib injury.

Johnson has an uncommonly large frame for a cornerback, measuring in at 6’2 and weighing in at 204 lbs., and was projected to get picked up in the late-2nd round. Like Janoris Jenkins, draft pundits had a tough time finding negatives to mark against Johnson prior to the draft, settling with ” not having experience covering receivers in top-notch conferences like other corners at the top of the draft board” as the only major hit against him. Luckily, he dropped into the 3rd and was quickly snatched up by Les Snead and Co.

In two games, Johnson has put together a number of good performances, amassing 7 tackles and 1 pass deflection. He made that single pass deflection count, laying a nice hit on the receiver and knocking the ball into the waiting hands of DT Matt Conrath, who recorded the official interception. Johnson has looked good in run support, as well as zone coverage, not allowing the receiver to gain yards after the catch and using his large frame to interfere in the passing lanes on the drags and quick slants across the middle of the field. With his seemingly short learning curve and with the sudden trade of Josh Gordy to the Colts, Trumaine might be looking to challenge the returning Bradley Fletcher for the #3 cornerback spot behind Jenkins and Finnegan.

Grade: A

Daryl Richardson (Round 7 , Pick 252) RB, Abilene Christian

Avid draft watchers were left scratching their head when the Rams drafted their second running back of the 2012 draft, one slot ahead of Mr. Irrelevant. So far, Richardson has been far from irrelevant, averaging an impressive 4.4 yards per carry against the Chiefs in Week 2 of the preseason, topped off with a touchdown. Although the rumblings of a roster battle for the second running back slot on the depth chart are a bit premature, the fact that they are there at all say something to the play of Richardson in his limited time.

Unlike fellow draftee Isaiah Pead, Richardson is finding the hole quickly and using his speed to burst through for whatever yards the defense will give him. He is not a power back by any means, but he clearly understands that he is not going be able to dance his way for yards at the professional level. It is a bit unfair to compare their production, as Pead is typically running against the first time units, while Richardson is bumping heads against the 2nd and 3rd teams. However, Richardson is making the most of his opportunities on the field, and everyone, including the coaches are beginning to notice. Coach Fisher describes Richardson as ” just real fast, strong, physical, kind of a change of pace guy. He’s a home run type of back and we were real surprised that he was there (in the 7th-round).”

If Richardson can continue to impress when given the reps in the game, battles hard during practice, and utilizes his strength and speed on special teams, he could be a vital tool for the Rams this season, and into the future. Grades have to come from your production during practice and on the field, regardless of when those reps come. Hopefully, over the next two games, Richardson will get more opportunities to show what he can do against more talented units and make the most of them.

Grade: B

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Tags: Daryl Richardson Isaiah Pead St. Louis Rams Trumaine Johnson

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