How Can the St. Louis Rams Replace Steven Jackson?

Jamal CollierAnalyst IIIMarch 13, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 30:  Running back Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 30, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Watching the NFL’s active career rushing leader pursue another avenue of employment is the unenviable position in which the St. Louis Rams find themselves this offseason. Running back Steven Jackson, 29, is poised to seek out a featured role with another team—taking his 10,135 career yards with him.

In the wake of his potential absence, St. Louis would be left with only a few rising sophomores at the position: seventh-rounder Daryl Richardson, second-rounder Isaiah Pead and the Jimmy John’s man himself, New York Jets sixth-rounder Terrance Ganaway.

Ganaway is the only one of the three with more than 200 pounds of mass to his credit—Richardson and Pead are each listed at 5’10”, 196 and 197 pounds respectively—as he’s listed at 6’0”, 240 pounds; the same weight as 6’2”, 240-pound Jackson.

Jackson’s a versatile back who, despite his immense size, was a dangerous pass-catcher for St. Louis in addition to bringing goal-line punch ability to the table. Either in an effort to preserve his effectiveness or to get more playing time for some of their younger guys—or both—the Rams wanted him to split carries with another back on the roster.

That wasn’t appealing to Jackson, so it appears that he’ll be taking his talents elsewhere.

Filling the void of a guy with 257 carries in 16 games last season (16.1 average) may take more than what the Rams have. Jackson didn’t miss any time, so it’s hard to say whether the Rams believe Ganaway can be their short-yardage man of the future; he received zero touches in 2012.

But they couldn’t keep Richardson off the field: He had 122 total touches (98 rushes) for 638 yards (475 rushing) and a two-point conversion in 16 games. The Abilene Christian product is still waiting for his first career touchdown.

It’s safe to say that he factors prominently in the Rams’ plans going forward.

Pead was the Rams’ highest-drafted running back and a top-50 overall selection, but a mixture of size redundancy and ball-security issues may have relegated him to special teams duty behind Richardson. Pead had one lost fumble on 13 offensive touches in 15 games. Richardson lost two fumbles in his 122 touches over 16 games.

Richardson ran well inside as a rookie, but neither Richardson nor Pead has the prototypical physique to professionally pound the rock between the tackles. Ganaway’s last regular-season carry on any level came as a student at Baylor, when the 24-year-old averaged 6.2 yards per attempt in 2011.

He totaled 1,547 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on 250 carries, including a long carry of 89 yards.

Ganaway only caught 10 passes at Baylor in his career, though. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a backfield receiver, but his limited history suggests that St. Louis might be looking for help behind Sam Bradford.

If so, they probably intend to spend a mid-to-late pick on a guy, searching for bargain draft gold for the second consecutive season. There’s an Atlanta Falcons connection with general manager Les Snead, but paying for a veteran touchdown machine like Michael Turner will probably prove too costly for a St. Louis team with so many holes to fill.

The lack of universally recognized first-round talent at the position also lends to the Rams’ potential to call the name of a running back on Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft. Maybe they take a chance on South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore (6’0”, 218 pounds, 26 catches in 2012). Maybe they wait on a guy like Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell (6’2”, 244 pounds, 32 catches in 2012).

St. Louis is going to get someone, though—if for no other reason than to compete with Ganaway for the big-back touches in 2013.


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