The St. Louis Rams need a backup running back. As if the issue weren't pressing enough, Steven Jackson's offseason back surgery elevated the issue to Lost finale proportions, well maybe not, but it's a big enough topic to overshadow a rookie QB and a team that just can't get sold. The PD caught up with the Rams incumbent backups for today's paper, but, for me, the article just brought up more questions, not the least of which is: what's the difference between Kenneth Darby and Chris Ogbonnaya?
Alright, go ahead and rattle off the most significant differences.
Ok, maybe that's not fair. We really haven't seen enough of Ogbonnaya to form a complete assessment. Instead, let's take a look at the similarities and then ask ourselves how that impacts the Rams depth chart behind Steven Jackson.
Both Darby and Ogbonnaya excel at catching passes. Ogbonnaya was even recruited to the Longhorns as a wide receiver. Both backs possess some aptitude for blocking, and Darby has made some third down appearances for the Rams since coming on board in October 2008. Their physical stats look very similar as well. Darby is 5'10" 219 lbs; Ogbonnaya is 6'0" 220 lbs. Both posted a 40 time of 4.6 seconds. Neither back is speedy enough to make a difference with their wheels, as we've seen on the field.
The differences? Age gives Ogbonnaya an advantage; he's three years younger. The Texas product also comes out of spread offense where he was asked to run routes and catch passes more than he hit holes and ran between the tackles. Upside seems to be Ogbonnaya's advantage in the coming camp battle, and you wonder if the Rams will keep both backs on the roster if they find a suitable third option.
It's telling that the Rams are interested in Brian Westbrook, a back who has excelled as a route runner and pass catcher, though he certainly is, or has been, a top all-around running back. Now, SJ39 is no slouch when it comes to catching passes himself, and it seems like the Rams want a backup who doesn't necessarily require a different section of the playbook when on the field...though none of these guys can do everything that Jackson can do.
It seems to me that having a runner(s) like Darby/Ogbonnaya or Westbrook behind Jackson has its distinct advantages. Expecting one of those guys to do everything that Jackson does is pure folly. Jackson's a talent all his own. Westbrook's injury history has taken away that ability...and provided a reminder of just how important it is to find a backup for Jackson. Without Jackson the Rams would severely miss a guy who can make those runs between the tackles. Adding a guy who fits that more traditional running back role seems like the most logical addition for the Rams. That would give them a useful tandem of backups who could become Steven Jackson by committee...though still not the sum of the man.