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Is Zac Stacy Really The St Louis Rams' Long-Term Answer?

The fact that the current draft needs for the St Louis Rams revolve around the offensive line, the receiving corps, and the defensive backfield represents how comfortable fans and analysts both seem with the running back position. Following Steven Jackson’s departure to the Atlanta Falcons last off-season, many could not have been blamed for predicting that the position would become a major need for the franchise, one which would require serious investment in upcoming drafts.

Fortunately, however, Zac Stacy’s performance last season has allowed Rams fans to breathe a sigh of relief at the prospect of that gaping hole being filled so quickly, and all for the price of a fifth-round pick. This means that the franchise can now focus on those aforementioned positions as they re-assemble a squad ready for NFL domination.

But…is Zac Stacy really the long-term solution at the running back position? Can we, on the basis of 12 starts, already take for granted that this box can be ticked on the Rams’ rebuilding plans?

Now, before I get accused of Rams heresy, I must declare that I am not advocating this position, but rather raising a question for discussion. Indeed, I have never hoped to be wronger in my life, and I am over-cautious by nature. Like most Rams fans, I am overjoyed that Les Snead has discovered a diamond in the lower-rounds rough and that the running game, while perhaps taking a few tentative steps, has not exactly been tackled for a major loss after the departure of 39.

Yes, there was the failed Daryl Richardson experiment, and Isaiah Pead is yet to prove his second-round worth, but Stacy simply picked up the ball and, doing what he does best, ran with it (with Benny Cunningham providing some intriguing back-up). When he was named starter in Week 5, Stacy kick-started a largely-anemic offense and gave the team an ethos that provided more stability than the plan to have Sam Bradford throw the ball to under-performing receivers.

Stacy showed incredible vision for a rookie, and his conviction in hitting the holes opened up for him reflected a robust and resilient attitude that quickly won fans over. There is no doubt that, with a full, healthy season, Stacy would have broken the 1,000-yard mark, and may even have been in strong contention for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. But,perhaps, his biggest achievement was his impact on the hopes of Rams fans.

But, are these hopes justified, or, after a decade of futility, are these fans prematurely jumping on a bandwagon of expectation? The numbers, after all, might be encouraging, but not overwhelming. Stacy averaged 3.9 yards per carry, joint lowest among the League’s top fifteen rushers (Stacy is fourteenth overall), and his average in the crucial second-half of the season was 3.6ypc – only 3.2 in December!

These averages in the final month of the season fluctuated from 4.8 in a mauling performance against New Orleans, to a lowly 1.0 in the final game against Seattle. True, not all of these were down to his abilities – improved defensive schemes and offensive game-plan adjustments were also factors – but this deterioration down the stretch is a cause for concern. As are injuries. Stacy famously suffered a concussion in his legendary performance against Chicago and, save for the New Orleans game, his numbers subsequently dropped.

While concussions are common for running backs, it nonetheless raises questions about his durability, particularly if he is going to continue single-handedly spearheading the Rams’ running game. Plus, I still have memories of individuals, such as Doug Martin, to start making assumptions after one rookie season.

So, what am I saying? Should the Rams already pre-empt a future letdown and invest their high draft picks on a new running back for the future? No, of course not. The expected improvements to the wide receiver and offensive line positions will, for a start, make Stacy’s chances of further success more likely. But, it would not hurt to assemble a stronger team around him by either developing Pead or Cunningham into viable co-starters who can share the load with him, or by drafting such a partner in the third or fourth rounds of this year’s draft, and thereby ensuring that our anointed running back of the future is not burnt out by the sheer weight of carrying both the ball and the expectations of fans.

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Tags: St. Louis Rams Zac Stacy

  • ricdram

    Who in this league “is the future”. Careers,
    Coaches & schemes are gone as quickly
    as they came in. Zac has as good a chance
    as anyone else to fail/succeed. His great
    attitude/smarts are gonna go a long way
    though. He looks better than the former
    Heisman Trophy winner (now) a Colt.
    Si o No ?

    • Nathan Kearns

      My take is that the Rams should be cautious about annointing Stacy as the heir to the throne…

      Yes, had had nearly 1,000 yard in 3/4 of a season… but, he was also injury at the start of the year, then twice more in that stretch of starts. Moreover, he production did drop a bit at the end of the season.

      Not saying he isn’t the answer. Just saying, the Rams shouldn’t necessarily turn a blind we to the position, assuming it is already “covered.”

      • Gary Stewart

        this is directed towards nathan and cesar nathan you are right in not annointing stacy and cesar add another running back to challenge d-rich is likely but i know you have professed a need for a jitterbug as the change of pace i am in favor of a 240 lb monster the kind of rb that makes stacy look like a scat back and punishes opposing defenses even if for only 3 yards per carry and 10-15 carries per game. in the fisher system softening up the defense is easier accomplished that way then trying to run around them.

        • cesarnoel

          According to most scouting reports Charles Sims is being compared as a poor man’s version of Matt Forte it means he can run both inside and outside AND catch balls from he backfield. As of now the closest RB who can do that is Richardson. Stacy and Cunningham can catch balls at time but not much unless they improve on that aspect.

          Now if your prefer a ground-and-pound RB my choice would be Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney (day 3 projection).

  • Beer O’Clock

    Zac Stacy runs harder than any RB in the NFL. He moves the pile better than any sub-230 lb runner I’ve seen, breaks tackles well and wears defenses down. Unfortunately, his style of running leaves him vulnerable to being injured. I would draft another version of Stacy, Carlos Hyde for example, and alternate them. This has two distinct advantages: 1) It keeps both RBs fresh while wearing down defenses, making the runners more effective and much less susceptible to injury and 2) provides little drop off in performance should one get injured.

    Then add a sub 4.4 40 back for a change of pace.

    • ricdram

      Isn’t Bennie Cunningham allready another
      version of Zac? IMO they are very similar.
      That being said I am open to depth at all

      • Beer O’Clock

        Not really. Cunningham is much easier to tackle, doesn’t get nearly the yards after contact as Stacy, doesn’t move the pile nor wear defenses down like Stacy. Cunningham hits the hole with good acceleration, better than Stacy, but not as good as Richardson. Cunningham is more like a hybrid between Richardson and Stacy (neither the strength of Stacy or the

        • cesarnoel

          Cunningham’s top value is his kick return ability. Other than that he’s more like my 3rd RB behind Stacy and Richardson, and ahead of Chase Reynolds and Pead. Pead is being used more as a gunner on special teams for now.

  • cesarnoel

    From what I believe is that Fisher usually does a running back by committee with Zac Stacy as their lead back. They will likely mix and match their runningback depending on their offensive situations. They will likely add another runningback to challenge Daryl Richardson. (Charles Sims (WVU)- 5th round).

  • MichaelNupe Thompson

    The thing about Stacy is he was getting used way too much a game. I could see 25 carries every other game or with a few gangs in between, but it was literally every game, even with him getting thirty carries in one game. That’s a real heavy workload. At the end of the season some teams, like cards, Seahawks, 49ers and bucks were hip to the fact we were just going to run the ball and played the run. Fact is we need a more diverse offense. More passing and better backup Rbs. I would really love if they have Pead a chance use him in a Darren sproles type role. The week against the cowboys he had like 60 receiving yards I think. Be creative and use the smaller backs on passing downs. Run them on stretch plays and screens so we can really see what they could do.