Is a Two Running back System Hurting Zac Stacy?


One player that came out of nowhere and shocked everybody last season was Zac Stacy. After struggling to find a running game in the first four games of the season, the Rams turned to Stacy who added a huge spark to the offense. The Rams went on two win their next two game with Stacy in the lineup.

The rookie running back went on to rush for 973 and seven touchdowns. Going into year two, many expected the running back to build off of his rookie season, but through the last two games games that has not been the case. Instead it has been undrafted second year player Benny Cunningham who has given the spark to the Rams running game.

Whenever the Rams have needed a big run, Cunningham has been right there and looking nothing like an undrafted player. Last week against the Eagles Cunningham averaged 6.7 yards per carry. Meanwhile Stacy averaged just 3.8 with only four more carries.

Cunningham had runs of 13, 14 and 11 yards, with the 14-yarder being a touchdown. He had seven carries for 47 yards, and continues to show tremendous burst through the line.

Jeff Fisher has vocalized the importance of having two running backs that can come in, but could it be hurting Stacy. This season the Rams running back hasn’t seemed to get in a rhythm during a game which is somewhat concerning for a team that is considered run-first.

That isn’t entirely Stacy’s fault however. whenever Stacy does seem to start to get in a rhythm, it seems like Fisher takes him off the field for one of the teams other running backs. For example, against the Eagles after two consecutive Zac Stacy runs that went for 19 yards, Fisher/Schottenheimer turned to Trey Watts.

Stacy’s next two carries, that didnt come until the next offensive possession, went for one yard and no gain. Whether taking Stacy off the field was because of an injury he was dealing with or just to keep the running back rotation fresh is uncertain, but the point it, that doing this is affecting Stacy and it’s not allowing him to get into a solid rhythm.

This happened again in the third quarter when Stacy had two carries that went for six and eight yards and then the Rams turned to Cunningham. Stacy’s next two carries went for four yards and then fumbled on the second attempt.

Their are many occasions of this same thing occurring throughout the first quarter of the season, and Stacy has struggled because of it.

Stacy has only gotten more than 15 yards one time this season in the team’s first four games and the Rams running back rushed for a season high 71 yards in that game. What’s alarming about this is that Stacy had 15 or more carries in 10 of 13 games last season.

Despite getting 67% of the carries at running back last season, Stacy’s carries have dropped down to 60% in 2013, which may not seem like a lot, but it is affecting the second year running back. Stacy is a running back that gets better as the game goes on and as the defense wears down, if Stacy is only getting 13 carries a game, that simply isn’t enough to get him going.

Part of Stacy not getting a lot of carries is that the Rams have thrown the ball over 40 times in the past two games, and for a run-first team that isn’t ideal, however taking Stacy out after he finally starts to get going isn’t helping the cause either.

Cunningham and Watts are good running backs and both bring something different to the table, and the Rams should certainly use them. However, they need to use them at better times when Stacy is struggling to find room in the running game rather than when it looks like he is in his groove.

Having a two back system in the NFL is a great thing to have and it is something that the Rams didnt have when Steven Jackson was on the team. The Rams need to use their two back system more efficiently however as it is obviously affecting the player that brought a spark to the offense last season.