Rams' Team Goal No. 4: Develop a Running Back Committee

David LeonCorrespondent IMay 6, 2010

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 27:  Marion Barber #24 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball during the game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 27, 2009 in Landover, Maryland. The Cowboys defeated the Redskins 17-0. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

I hope everyone was watching ESPN's NFL Live! earlier in the day.  It will air again at 9:00pm Pacific and 12:00pm Eastern.  They dealt at some length with Steven Jackson's recent back surgery.

Neither Marcellus Wiley nor Mark Schlereth believe there is any such thing as minor spinal surgery.  This is especially true when you are a power running back who thumps defenders and makes them pay for trying to tackle you.

Schlereth had particularly strong words on the subject.  He stated that he had 20 knee surgeries during his football career.  He would have rather had 20 more on top of those than the single back surgery he had.  Schlereth says that he suffers constant pain every day from a disc injury he sustained. 

Right Wing politicos like Rush Limbaugh and Counter-Cultural Pornographers like Larry Flint would agree.  Both of these men live in constant pain after sustaining spinal injuries and undergoing minor and major surgeries to repair their various injuries.

Steven Jackson is our best player, and he is exceptional in every respect, but we need to be realistic about this thing.  The average life span of a running back in the NFL is just 4.5 seasons.  As Mike Lombardi says, most running backs have a very difficult time signing that second contract.  Power backs generally have shorter careers than elusive guys.

Steven Jackson has completed six full years in the NFL, and will begin his 7th in 2010.  As a power runner, Jackson has well outlived his actuarial table projections.  While we all hope he has many good years left, it will never happen if we beat the hell out of him as we did last year.

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I have criticized Pat Shurmur's offensive philosophy as "Run, run, run 'till our daddy takes our T-Bird away."  Daddy's going to take our T-Bird away sooner rather than later if don't stop over-exploiting him.  If we don't want his injury to grow exponentially worse, we better get him some help, spell him during the course of a game, and give him some rest during the course of a long season.

Although the Rams are an extremely stubborn running team, we do not rank among the top-rushing teams in the league.  We have the 20th ranked rushing attack in the NFL.  We only gained 1,784 yards on the ground last year.   That's because we're a one-horse stagecoach.  Every single member of the Top-5 running teams has a running back committee.   The top-rushing team in the league last year were

  1. New York Jets: 2,756 yards
  2. Tennessee Titans: 2,592 yards.
  3. Carolina Panthers: 2498 yards.
  4. Miami Dolphins:  2,231 yards
  5. Baltimore Ravens:  2,200 yards

New Orleans finished 6th, and Dallas 7th.  All of these teams have one thing in common:  They have a running back committee.  No single agent carries the mail on every down.  The closest thing to a one-horse stage coach is the Titans.  Even they had Vince Young and LenDale White, who were credible threats to run the football during 2009.

The Jets and the Dolphins have the model committees that we should aspire to.  The Jets had Thomas Jones (1402), Shonn Greene (540) and Leon Washington (331).  The Dolphins had Ricky Williams (1,121) Ronnie Brown (648), and an assortment of other carriers.

Suppose we wanted rank among the top 5 rushing teams in the league. How might we accomplish that goal?  First, we would need to rush for 500 or 600 more yards.  How would we best do that?  Rush Steven 100 more times in 2010 than in 2009?  

No.  Obviously, that is foolishness.  The only way to get better here is to get some more running backs and spread out the carries.

Thomas Jones was just one the Market.  He was just snapped up by Kansas City.  That is the very same Thomas Quinn Jones who lugged the rock for nearly as much yardage as Steven Jackson last season.  He would have made for a great committee with Steven Jackson and Brian Westbrook.

While it is too late for us to acquire Thomas Jones, we may still be able to obtain Westbrook.  There is not much more out there in terms of unrestricted free agents.  Jamal Lewis (formerly with the Browns) and Justin Fargas (formerly with Raiders) are the only other two names on the market of any note.

Rumor has had it that one Marion 'the Barbarian' Barber in Dallas just might be available.   The former Pro Bowler remained the Cowboy's leading rush in 2009, rolling up 932 yards on 214 carries.  Yet the emergence of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice have made executives within the Cowboys organization believe Barber is expendable.

Whatever the case may be, I believe it is imperative that the Rams develop a running back committee for 2010.  The stupid thing to do is run Steven Jackson into a brick wall 324 more times in 2010. 

This will probably end his career, and it won't do us much good either.  We'll lose him and get caught with our pants down because we do not have an effective backup.

Consider the consequences if we do loose Steven Jackson for any length of time, and don’t have any other threatening running backs.  We will have to load up on Sam Bradford’s back and ride him in 2010.  This would be very unwise, both in the long term and the short term.