Cadillac Williams to Rams: Analyzing Where Williams Fits in St. Louis Backfield

Joseph HealyCorrespondent IAugust 3, 2011

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20:  Running back Cadillac Williams #24 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs with the ball against Donte Whitner #20 of the Buffalo Bills during the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 20, 2009 in Orchard Park, New York.  The Bills won 33-20.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

If you're a St. Louis Rams fan, today is a great day for you. The Rams, a young team that was on the doorstep of the postseason last year, filled one of their biggest holes today by signing veteran running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams.

Along with fellow recent signee Jerious Norwood, Williams will be brought in to help spell Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson.

Over the last few seasons, Jackson has been among the most productive running backs in the league. Two seasons ago, he rushed for 1,416 yards. Last season, he rushed for 1,241 yards. He also had over 700 total receiving yards in those two seasons.

After much concern about his ability to stay healthy earlier in his career, Jackson has missed only one game in the last two seasons.

Now those concerns are popping up yet again, but this time the concerns are centered around his high usage rate and age rather than some predisposition to injuries. Only Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson have more carries than Jackson in the last three seasons. Since 2006, he leads the league in carries with 1,490.

Jackson is 28 years old. He likely still has a few years of peak performance left, but if the Rams don't cut down on his carries soon, the decline will be steep and quick.

For anecdotal evidence, look no further than former Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander. It was as a 29 year old that Alexander's per carry average dropped from 5.1 yards to 3.6 yards just one season after leading the league in rushing yardage, rushing touchdowns and most importantly, rushing attempts.

Before signing Norwood and Williams, the Rams leaned on Kenneth Darby to be the guy to give Jackson a break. Unfortunately, he hasn't been effective enough to stay on the field.

Norwood has been a shifty runner and a solid receiver for the Falcons over his first six seasons in the league, but Williams is the real prize.

Like Jackson, Williams has had injury troubles, but he has played 16 games in each of the last two seasons. He hasn't rushed for over 1,000 yards since his rookie season of 2005, but he rushed for over 800 yards just two seasons ago.

The total and averages aren't what matters, though. Williams is a competent enough runner to keep Jackson off the field for significant stretches of time and that's just what the Rams are looking for.

Mike Sando of described what Williams brings to the team this way:

He is a hard runner and could give the Rams another physical presence in the backfield.

That quote says it all. Williams adds much needed depth to the backfield and he will give the Rams a physical presence in the running game when they need to give Jackson a rest.

Anything more than that would just be icing on the cake. A cake that already should taste pretty sweet to the St. Louis Rams.