When Steven Jackson left in the offseason, the Rams were left with a gaping hole at running back. Jackson had rushed for 1,000 yards in the previous eight seasons and you just dont replace those numbers. Many wondered how the Rams would replace an all time great.
In the offseason the Rams didnt go out and get another veteran running back, they didnt try to trade for one, not did they draft one of the top guys in the draft. Instead Les Snead and Jeff Fisher have stuck to building young, drafting the best player available, and sticking with their guys. Therefore to replace Steven Jackson the Rams were left with a couple of first and second year guys in Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Zac Stacy, and Benny Cunningham. The running backs battled it out throughout camp and it was Daryl Richardson who came out as the victor.
Richardson was the guy with the most experience as he had beaten out second round pick Isaiah Pead the previous season and he was the only running back with significant playing time experience. Last year Richardson ran for 475 yards off of 98 carries, which isnt that bad. Before the season experts were saying that Richardson couldnt be the featured back and he was only a third down, change of pace back. The Rams coaches and fans believed otherwise from what they saw last season and decided to run with Richardson to start the season, but remained open to a running back by committee system.
Richardson got the nod to start the season, but due to poor blocking and getting behind early in games, Richardson became less and less effective each week. In the season’s first four games Richardson ran for 20 times for 63 yards, 10 times for 35 yards, DNP, and 12 carries for 16 yards which in total is 42 carries for 114 carries which on average is 2.7 yards per carry. The Rams needed an answer at running back and they needed one fast.
Enter Zac Stacy. In April the Rams traded away their 6th and 7th round picks to move up and get the best physical running back available in Zac Stacy. Stacy entered the season as the third string running bak behind Pead and Richardson, but with the Rams’ running game struggles the Rams were desperate to try anything.
You could just tell in the first four games that the Rams were missing Steven Jackson and that physical style of running, and that’s exactly what Zac Stacy brought on Sunday. Before Sunday’s game the Rams ranked 30th in rushing yards after contact with 1.15. On Sunday Stacy had 32 yards after contact, averaging 2.29 per carry.
With that physical style of running Stacy carried the ball 14 times for 78 yards averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Stacy’s longest run of the game was a 12 yard plow, which is the second longest run of the season for any Rams running back. 78 yards and 5.6 yards per carry are season highs for the Rams.
The great thing about Stacy is that he can get those yards after contact that Ricahrdson could not and because Stacy is physical and wears down the defense, things are beginning to open up a little more for Daryl Richardson. Richardson had 13 carries for 48 yards averaging 3.7 yards per carry which is a season high for him.
It finally looks like the Rams may have found the answer at running back andSam Bradford has somewhat of a run game to go to now. The combination of Stacy and Richardson could become quite the two-headed monster combination.
The Rams had been desperately missing a run game. We still have to look at reality though. The Rams did this against the worst run defending team in the NFL, but the Rams also had the second worst rushing attack coming in. We will find out more about this combination in the weeks to come, but for now it looks like the Rams may have found a combination that works.