St. Louis Rams: A 1,000-yard rusher on the roster?

Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

In the upcoming season, the St. Louis Rams won’t have the luxury of handing it to a guy who’s made rushing for a 1,000 yards a thing of regularity. Is there someone on the roster who can? Pete Prisco thinks so.

There’s been much debate as to whom - more so how much - the ball will be dispersed amongst rushers for the St. Louis Rams in the absence of Steven Jackson. Daryl Richardson earned the "go-to" tag in 2012 when Jackson was in need of a breather. Isaiah Pead, who will miss the first game of the season, came on late at the end of the year, but still has a lot to prove if he’s going to carry the majority of the workload for the Rams. Lastly, the Rams traded up two sixth round picks in this most recent draft in order to select Zac Stacy; a Vanderbilt product who’s got the build and skill sets to be an every down back in the league.

Pete Prisco - over at CBS Sports - wrote an article yesterday covering viable replacements for "big name" NFL players - who’ve recently moved on from their former team, or will be missing time due to injury. Steven Jackson is a big name.

Opinions - like yours, mine, and Pete - can only carry so much weight. There’s still a lot of offseason left to go, along with plenty of camp battles on the horizon. There’s plenty of time for standout for performances, and unfortunately the opportunity for injury still exists. But if all were to play out as Prisco sees it, then the Rams would indeed have one lone RB who could carry the rock past the 1,000 yard mark in 2013:

The player: Steven Jackson, RB
The team: St. Louis Rams

The skinny: The Rams let Jackson leave as a free agent and he signed with the Falcons. Jackson is still a good player, but aging running backs are tough to pay to keep.

Replacements: This will likely be a back-by-committee approach with second-year players Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead competing with rookie Zac Stacy for time. Richardson rushed for 475 yards as a rookie and averaged 4.8 per carry. The Rams want to get him the ball more in the passing game after he had 24 catches last season. Pead had just 54 rushing yards last season, but he should get more time and has the quickness the Rams like.

Prognosis: I like getting young at running back, but replacing Jackson will be tough. Richardson's 4.8-per carry average has to give the Rams some hope. I think he can be a 1,000-yard rusher in his second season.

I may be venturing out on this one, but I’d say that Prisco was impressed with Richardson’s [7th round, 2012] rookie campaign, citing that he carried the ball for 4.8 yards a touch on more than one occasion. If you saw Richardson last year, then you know - though small - he does have the innate ability to find the hole and has the quickness needed to suddenly find himself a few would-be tacklers away from taking it to the house. Here’s an enjoyable little ditty showing what he’s capable of doing. And though the long runs against the Redskins and Dolphins were nice, check out what he does to the 49ers defense about 1:40 in to the video.

I suppose the question arises, "how?" How - in a timeshare situation - is Daryl Richardson going to be able to rush for 1,000 yards in 2013? The Rams have said all offseason that Pead has been working extremely hard, and the fact that they didn’t draft a RB in Day’s 1 or 2 of the draft should speak to their comfort with what last year’s rookie duo is capable of. But Steven Jackson barely eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark in 2012, having carried the ball 257 times…159 more than Richardson, and 247 more than Pead.

If Sam Bradford is to hand the ball off 365 times in 2013, is Richardson lining up in the backfield on two-thirds of those plays? Not likely if they do indeed plan on the committee approach. But if you look at the numbers, it’s quite possible Richardson could be the guy. At 4.8 ypc - and with Jackson’s 2012 workload - Richardson would’ve rushed for 1,233 yards in his rookie year. That’s quite impressive, and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Only time will tell how the battle for starting time in the Rams’ backfield will pan out. To Prisco’s point, Richardson is the only back on the Rams’ roster who’s proven that he can cut in the NFL. Though only 98 carries on his resumé - and no TD’s to his name - Richardson looks to be the front-runner for the starting gig, at least at this point.

The Rams have some decision-making to do prior to the onset of the regular season. Having three young running backs - all who possess skills that make the Rams’ offense dynamic - is a luxury. But much like the bevy of young wideouts the Rams have, figuring out how to 'spread the love' may be the most difficult task of all.

But if Daryl Richardson rushes for 1,000 yards in 2013, it won’t be as a result of running-back-by-committee. No, it’ll be because he’s earned the starting role for the team. I can’t say that I’d disagree with the coaching staff for making that decision.

Author’s Note: When in doubt, go Dreads!

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