To start the 2013 season, the question marks surrounding the St. Louis Rams backfield were the “main” talking point for the offense. After a smooth transition from Marshall Faulk to Steven Jackson, would any of the three top running backs be able to fill the gap? Following the drastic “philosophy” switch in Week 5, when Jeff Fisher reverted back to the ground-and-pound, the answer appears to be a resounding: Yes!
Zac Stacy will undoubtedly head into the 2014 season as the starting tailback for St. Louis, with Benny Cunningham and Daryl Richardson likely fighting for backup reps. However, with the announcement this week the Tre Mason will be leaving Auburn and headed to the NFL Draft, could he be “on the board” in the St. Louis War Room?
At first, that question may seem asinine, especially after bloviating about Zac Stacy as the “next great running back” for the Rams. However, with Jeff Fisher at the helm, it is not unlikely that he would look for another high-caliber back that could “change the pace” and ease the load for Stacy. Going back through the history of successful Fisher rosters, you can find several combinations of highly skilled running backs, including Chris Johnson and LenDale White… and before that, Chris Brown and LenDale White… and before that, Chris Brown and Eddie George… and the list goes on! Even in “off” years, where there was a true “feature back” in the offense, the Titans still regularly split some carries, to some extent, between two or three running backs and/or quarterbacks. In fact, one of the first statements that Jeff Fisher made when he came to St. Louis was that he liked having “several” guys that could pound the rock on offense…
Aside from the offensive history of the head coach, there are several other semi-obvious reasons that the Rams could look at Tre Mason. For starters, Zac Stacy has already shown some propensity for injury, both at Vanderbilt and in his rookie season. He missed much of Rams Camp in the offseason, and was forced to leave several games early (Tennessee, Chicago, etc.) due to a variety injuries. With the Rams success last season hinging on the ability to run the football, it seems nonsensical to have so much invested on the health of one individual player. Moreover, stringing together 300+ touch seasons has proven to be a sure-fire way of “running a player into the ground,” which is something that no one wants to see the Zac Stacy.
Secondly, and maybe less importantly, the Rams offense is still in dire need of additional offensive production. “Production” is the name of the game with Tre Mason, who appeared to play better as both the spotlight and the competition increased. Moreover, his running style and physical traits should mess seamlessly with Zac Stacy. Both are powerful, downhill runner with “shorter” stature, which proved to be successful behind, at times, a dominant run blocking offensive line. However, Tre Mason is a significantly “quicker” player, with better open-field elusiveness and “breakaway” abilities.
That brings up the last point. Tre Mason is different than any back currently on the St. Louis Rams roster. Daryl Richardson is a scatback (at best), Zac Stacy is a grinder, and Benny Cunningham is a carbon copy of Stacy with only one solid, half-game performance against a hapless Chicago Bears defense to his name. One of the “scary” aspects of the St. Louis Rams offense is it’s versatility, courtesy of players like Jared Cook and Tavon Austin. The inclusion of Tre Mason would give the Rams one more “player option” in, what could be, one of the most unique offensive units in the NFL.
The history of Jeff Fisher’s backfield rosters, the potential “injury” issues with Zac Stacy, and the potential to add another playmaker to the St. Louis Rams roster should be more than enough to put Tre Mason on their big board in April. Yes, the Rams have plenty of other areas to cover in the 2014 NFL Draft, but with the team expected to have a handful of “luxury” picks (assuming a trade down from No.2 overall), it wouldn’t overly surprising to hear Mason’s name called. We’ll have to wait until Draft Day to find out…