Three’s company, is four a crowd?
The departure of all-pro running back Steven Jackson left a crater-sized whole filled with inexperience, uncertainty and a cluster of tailbacks looking to draw their own path in the sand. While it’s almost laughable calling Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead the seniors of the bunch, as well as Terrance Ganaway, the arrival of the workhorse and fifth-round selection Zac Stacy has left the Rams with a good problem to have.
The collection of talent in the Rams’ backfield has given the impression of a running back by committee approach. However, besides the opening scripted plays to establish the rhythm of a quarterback, a valid argument can be made that a running back needs that same type of rhythm. Take the New Orleans Saints for example, a backfield log jammed with Marc Ingram, who I feel is vastly underutilized, Pierre Thomas and all purpose back Darren Sproles were ranked 25th in rushing last season averaging 98 yards a game. Both Ingram and Thomas has the ability of a feature back, but can never establish a rhythm because of the pass-happy Saints and their lack of carries.
It’s not entirely out the questions that St. Louis won’t follow the trend of the Saints as the offense plans to lean more on quarterback Sam Bradford and newly acquired weapons, but I doubt with Jeff Fisher’s and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s background that they will venture towards that route.
Each running back on the Rams roster has a unique set of skills and qualities that separate themselves from the group. Pead is the fastest of the backs with exceptional hands out the backfield and shifty lateral movement, Richardson is a one-cut go, downhill runner, Ganaway is a 6’0″ 240 pound mauler with underrated speed and newcomer Stacy has the potential of an every down back.
Let’s be honest, the Rams won’t keep four backs on the roster. Pead was a second round selection in 2012, so he’s safe. Richardson rushed for 475 yards on 98 carries, he’s not going anywhere. St. Louis traded both of their sixth round picks to select Stacy in the fifth round with Snead saying, “We had some other guys we liked, but nobody we were as jacked-up about, so we decided to go ahead and make the move to get the guy we really wanted.” If a GM is jacked-up about player, I doubt he’s going anywhere, anytime soon. That leaves Ganaway as the odd man out because of circumstances.
Before St. Louis drafted Stacy, who I see as another Doug Martin, I was driving the Pead bandwagon, and I still am. Even with Richardson’s production, I believe he will see his carries decline due to Fisher and Snead’s faith in Pead. While I believe Pead will open the regular season as the starter, Stacy could very well overtake him by the end of the season.
Stacy is a patient and instinctive runner who can locate the smallest ray of sunshine in small holes at the line of scrimmage. At 5’8″ and 216 lbs, a wide range of analyst have compared him to Ray Rice because of his short area quickness and his ability to break through arm tackles. And not to mention the first Commodore to rush for a 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons in the SEC.
While it is undoubtedly true the wide receivers will garner all the attention throughout training camp, the competition a running back is a battle in its own right.