St. Louis Rams: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Running Back
One of the key components to a Jeff Fisher football team is a solid run game capable of carrying the offense, and the Rams finally have that in St. Louis.
Not only do the Rams have a featured back in Zac Stacy, but the team also now has proper depth capable of supplementing him throughout the 16-game season.
The St. Louis running backs appear to be a team strength in 2014. This article will go through the entire depth chart at running back and discuss the role each player will fill in the upcoming season.
Stacy received just one carry during the first four weeks of the 2013 season, but he quickly earned his stripes as the team's primary back in the final 12 games of the year.
Stacy finished the season with 973 rushing yards—more than any rookie fifth-round pick since the 1970 merger—and eight total touchdowns.
Stacy is a bowling ball runner (a Maurice Jones-Drew clone). He lacks the speed to make people miss, but he has an uncanny ability to bounce off of tacklers. He wastes no time running side-to-side, as he's a true north-south runner.
According to ESPN's Nick Wagoner, Fisher claims Stacy will likely take on about 70 percent of the workload, making him the featured back of the offense.
With an improved offensive line and proper depth to keep him fresh, Stacy will have every opportunity to produce Pro Bowl numbers in 2014.
Stacy will be the starting running back, but third-round draft pick Tre Mason is going to make him work for it.
Mason claims he'll be competing for the starting job during training camp. And while that competition is an uphill battle and more of a formality, Mason will still contribute part-time on offense.
Mason has the bowling ball qualities we see from Stacy, but unlike Stacy, Mason has the pure speed to take it to the house if he breaks through to the second level.
It's likely that Mason will receive just a handful of carries early in the season, but expect the rookie runner to cement his status as the No. 2 back by the second half of the season.
Stacy was injured for the second half of the Week 12 game against the Chicago Bears last season, but Benny Cunningham stepped in as the No. 2 back and finished with 109 yards on 13 carries.
Lighting up a weak Chicago run defense is not exactly a remarkable feat, but it's clear that Cunningham can be relied on if needed.
Cunningham has impressive speed and is dangerous when he gets to the outside. He also has decent skills as a receiver.
The thing that really hurts Cunningham is his ball security. He had two fumbles in 47 attempts last season, and earning a reputation as a fumbler is the quickest way for a back to lose playing time.
If Cunningham can fix his ball-security issues, he'll be a regular part of the running back rotation.
Isaiah Pead made contributions as a special teams player last season, but his lack of production on offense has been a major disappointment.
The Rams passed on defensive star Lavonte David—who would have filled a major need at linebacker on defense—to select Pead in the second round of the 2012 draft, and the results have been devastating.
Pead had just 54 rushing yards as a rookie in 2012, and he managed to cut that rushing total in half in 2013 (a nearly impossible feat) with just 21 yards.
To be fair, Pead improved as a receiver in 2013 (78 yards compared to 16 in 2012), but he finished as the eighth-leading rusher on the team last season. He was beat out by wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, as well as the practically immobile Sam Bradford.
The second-round selection has been a disappointment. He'll struggle to make the final roster, and anything other than a total implosion will be a complete surprise in 2014.
Chase Reynolds has spent the past few training camps in St. Louis, but he has never amounted to anything more than a special teams contributor.
The Rams have room on the roster for a fourth running back to contribute on special teams. Reynolds is capable of being that guy, but he'll have to outplay Pead to earn a roster spot.
Pead has more potential than Reynolds as an offensive contributor, so if the special teams play of these two is equal, Pead will likely have the edge. As such, Reynolds will not only have to keep up with Pead on special teams, but he'll also have to surpass him by a comfortable margin to make the team.
Trey Watts had back-to-back seasons with over 1,000 rushing yards at Tulsa, so the undrafted rookie clearly has some skills as a runner.
Watts, at just over 200 pounds, is not built as an every-down back in the NFL, but he has some value as a change-of-pace back.
With Mason and Cunningham backing up Stacy, it will take several injuries for Watts to get a shot on offense. However, if he works hard and has a solid camp, there's a good chance he'll earn a spot on the practice squad.
Kadeem Jones is a very unique player among this group—he's the heaviest running back by over 40 pounds and is the only one capable of lining up at fullback.
Jones' ability to line up at fullback gives him a clear advantage over the other backs. The Rams have tight end Lance Kendricks, who has experience as a lead blocker, but if Jones can surpass Kendricks in that department, he'll have a real shot at making the team.
The undrafted rookie will also have to make noise as a special teams contributor. If that happens, he'll at least be a candidate for the practice squad.
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