In March, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher told reporters RB Zac Stacy would likely handle the bulk of the duties for the offensive ground attack. This endorsement came after a surprisingly productive rookie season from Stacy – a fifth-round selection out of Vanderbilt in the 2013 NFL Draft. Stacy quickly surpassed the recently released RB Daryl Richardson on the depth chart, after he averaged a lowly 3.1 yds per carry last season. Stacy finished his first professional campaign with 1,114 total yards and 8 TD’s through only 12 games. Now, after the Rams landed Auburn RB Tre Mason in the third round of this year’s draft, the Ram coaching staff is holding an open running back competition. According to Ryan Van Bibber, coaches told Mason he will compete for the top running back spot.
Both backs will work hard the next few months during OTA’s, training camp and the preseason, but what does this new information mean for the offense? It’s very probable that Mason has a real chance to get substantial carries in his rookie year. Yes, coaches want to create a competitive atmosphere just to get the most effort out of their players, but the coaching staff spent a third round pick to get their man, and Fisher loves to have two talented backs in his offensive bag of tricks.
When in Tennessee, Fisher had both RB’s Chris Johnson and LenDale White taking significant carries – and each brought their own style of running to the table. Johnson was the homerun-threat, and White was the tank. Their best season together came in 2008 when Johnson ran for 1,228 yards and nine TD’s while White rumbled for 773 yards and 15 TD’s. The Rams have a chance to have similar success, although Stacy and Mason are much closer in running style than CJ2K and White showcased in Tennessee.
Stacy is a small, but powerful, runner with good patience and vision, while Mason has a little more wiggle to go with his trucking ability. While at school, he showed the ability to take over games, using his bruising power and deceptive speed to wear down defenses. His most notable performances came against Missouri, when he ran a punishing 46 times for 304 yards and 4 TD’s, and Florida State in the National Championship game when he gained 237 total yards and two TD’s in their losing effort.
If the offense truly turns into a two-back system, a lot of pressure will be taken off of the arm of QB Sam Bradford, as well as the wide-shoulders of Stacy. The Rams drafted Mason’s teammate at Auburn, OT Greg Robinson, and the front office recently added former Buccaneer guard Davin Joseph, according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport. This offense is slowly turning into a power running juggernaut, especially if LT Jake Long returns healthy in time for Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings. It seems the Rams will attempt to win by running the ball and playing good defense – in other words, smash-mouth football.