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Weighing pass blocking in the search for a running back

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Whatever the St. Louis Rams do to find a running back in free agency, they need to think about a player who can block. Pro Football Focus continued their look at pass blocking yesterday with an eye on the running backs. There's a very familiar name on the list of running backs with the worth pass blocking efficiency numbers. The list also gives a little insight into which potential free agents might be of use in that department. 

Steven Jackson has never been known for his pass blocking ability. Of course, when you're as good as he is in every other facet of the game, you don't need to be.

In 110 pass blocking attempts last year, which put him just outside the 15 RBs who saw the most pass protection snaps, Jackson allowed 9 pressures for a PBE of 6.59. That was the ninth worst mark in the league according to PFF. Over the last three years, Jackson has allowed 24 pressures on 284 pass protection snaps for a PBE of 7.13, again the ninth worst in the league. 

The Rams need many things in a backup runner this year, potentially a replacement, and pass blocking will be on the task list for any new addition. A couple names on the list have already been mentioned in conjunction with the Rams.

  • Darren Sproles allowed 3 pressures on 65 pass blocking snaps last year, putting him at #15 on the best from 2010. It's been said that the Rams have some interest in Sproles. 
  • Ronnie Brown was asked to pass block on 135 snaps last year, fifth most in the NFL, and allowed just 7 pressures, putting him on the 15 best list. 
  • Jason Snelling of the Falcons was among the 15 best over the last three years. As a five-year veteran, he'll probably be an unrestricted free agent. If that's the case, don't overlook GM Billy Devaney's connection to the Falcons, where he worked before coming to the Rams. Snelling was a seventh-round pick in Devaney's last year in Atlanta. Not likely to ever be a full-time guy, he blocks well (duh), can catch the ball and has the power to pick up some between-the-tackles carries.
  • Cadillac Williams, who gets talked about as a third down option, has allowed almost as many pressures as Steven Jackson since 2008 in fewer pass protection snaps.

Free agency is still an unknown at this point, so it's hard to guess at who will be available. Adding a running back who improves the Rams pass blocking could make Steven Jackson more of a weapon on some of those passing downs where he's been tabbed for pass protection in the past. Having a back like Sproles is equally threatening to defenses in those situations could really makes things interesting.