In his weekly chat with NFC West fans, ESPN's Mike Sando fielded a question about the St. Louis Rams backup running back situation. Now there are lots of questions around that one big question mark that is the Rams #2 running back. Sando specifically tackles the notion of potential free agent addition Darren Sproles, who has been mentioned more than once as a possible answer to the Rams' question.
In poo-pooing the idea, Sando makes a good point, that underscores the problem with trying to solve this issue via free agency. Here's Sando:
Sproles is talented enough to fit in any system as a situational back. I would applaud the Rams for adding him, but the value might not be right. Sproles turns 28 this month. The Rams are going to give the ball to Steven Jackson most of the time. Spending big on a long-term deal for Sproles wouldn't make sense.
Jackson will himself be 28 this season. That's not particularly old, but add on the mileage the Rams have put on his tires along with his past health record and you can see the need to add a backup.
What does Sproles have left? Probably enough to be a complementary back, but probably not enough to be a full-fledged replacement should Jackson be lost for any amount of time this season. Backs in a similar mode as Sproles, i.e. scatbacks, would have a hard time handling 20 carries a game and those tough runs between the tackles, something the Rams would need desperately without Jackson.
Among the other potential free agents there aren't any easy answers. It's a pretty weak group of running backs, even without the six-year restriction.
Replacing Steven Jackson is an impossible task with the options out there. It's why the decision to pass on back like Mikel Leshoure or Ryan Williams, guys that do offer more of a full replacement, hurt so much.
Devaney would be best advised, in the humble opinion of this writer, to consider some of the options among undrafted free agents. We talked about Miami's Graig Cooper yesterday as well as a couple other options. In truth, they're best bet is to bring in a couple running backs, with a variety of skills, to compete with the current group behind Jackson, Keith Toston and Chauncey Washington.