When the St. Louis Rams signed Jared Cook, a big receiving tight end, Jake Long, a pro bowl left tackle, and then traded up in the 2013 NFL Draft to take the best playmaker in the draft in Tavon Austin, it was though that the Rams would have an offense similar to the one in New Orleans.
However, with three consecutive losses at the beginning of the season throwing the ball an average of 45 times a game, it was obvious that a change needed to be made. Although Bradford was having the best stats of his career, the Rams continued to fall behind early in games and if a change wasn’t made, the Rams were going to be in serious trouble. Stats don’t always mean victories.
In week five against the Jacksonville Jaguars, head coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer went back to what they were comfortable with, running the football. Zac Stacy emerged as the Rams’ go to guy on the ground and the Rams won back to back games to get back to .500.
Right when the Rams found their stride, Bradford unfortunately went down with a torn ACL, but the Rams would not turn back from their new game plan that was working. The Rams surprisingly won four of their final nine games using this run first offense with backup quarterback Kellen Clemens.
However, of those losses, four of those them came against teams in the NFC West. And although Stacy had decent numbers in the first meeting against the Seahawks and the second meeting against the 49ers running for 134 and 72 yards respectively, in the last two division games against the Cardinals and Seahawks, Stacy had only 40 yards combined despite having 29 carries.
When the Rams drafted the best run blocking tackle, Greg Robinson in the first round, there was no doubt that the Rams were going to stick to this game plan. It was how Fisher had success in Tennessee, and it was what Schottenheimer had grown up watching.
However, that brings on the question, is it still possible to win with a run first offense and can the Rams do it especially given the fact that they struggled running the football against teams in their division?
To get to the playoffs, the Rams are going to have to do well in the division, and 40 yards in two games just isn’t going to get the job done.
In the difficult NFC West with four of the best front sevens in the league, although you do have to be able to run the football, you get one-dimensional with it, and you aren’t going to have much success, this was proven last year.
The NFL is a quarterback driven league, therefore if you can’t somewhat throw the football, you are in deep trouble.
The big difference however between this year and last year is that Sam Bradford will be back. Nothing against Kellen Clemens, but he just isn’t as accurate as Bradford and isn’t a threat throwing the football.
Without that threat, defenses, especially in the NFC West, weren’t afraid to stack the box as there wasn’t that threat through the air. However, with Bradford back, that won’t be the case.
With Sam Bradford under center next year, defenses are going to be forced to stay honest. Although Bradford isn’t Peyton Manning by any means he does pose that threat throwing the football and can get the job done.
Teams like the 49ers and Seahawks have both had success with run first offenses and playing solid defense. Even though the 49ers and Seahawks rely on running the football, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick still pose that threat through the air.
As long as the Rams have the balance running the football and Bradford can make the necessary throws, there is no reason the Rams can’t have success in a run first offense, they found success with it last year with Clemens, and it will only be better with Bradford.