Steven Jackson was a staple in the St. Louis Rams' backfield for years. Jackson was an all-purpose back who could run, catch and block.
However, Jackson was getting a little long in the tooth and did not want to see his role reduced with the team.
So for now Jackson resides in the Atlanta backfield and leaves St. Louis in a struggle to find a replacement for his production.
In steps Zac Stacy. The all-time rushing leader for Vanderbilt football, Stacy brings a smart and hard-nosed style to the team.
His coaches rave about his vision and work ethic and how easily he will be able to grasp an NFL offense. Here are five reasons why he will thrive for the Rams' offense in 2013.
1. Revamped Offensive Line
You have to start up front if you want a good ground game and St. Louis has addressed that in spades over the past offseason. I know that people are down on Jake Long, but the guy can still be very productive if he stays healthy and is an elite talent at left tackle.
Harvey Dahl was signed over from Atlanta and is one of the most rugged guards in the NFL. He brings great competitiveness and nasty play on the field. Center Scott Wells is as steady as can be and won’t wow you but just continues to get the job done.
Rodger Saffold moves over from left to right tackle and will fit more naturally in that spot. Saffold lacks the feet to be a great edge protector, as seen in the Long signing.
The team drafted versatile interior player Barrett Jones from Alabama and he could easily slide into any of the three spots on the inside. If the improved OL can open up the holes, Stacy will find the crease and can explode in the power run game or zone schemes.
2. Rams Have Play-Makers Around Him
The team needed to replace Danny Amendola and in a sense did that by drafting Tavon Austin with their first pick. Austin can spread the field but also be a threat in the short and intermediate game. Sam Bradford hasn’t lived up to the enormous billing as the first overall pick, but he never really had the receivers to stretch the field.
That has limited his growth a little and the Rams addressed that concern in the off season as well. The team is publicly stating that former second round Brian Quick will explode in his second year and he gives the team a huge target on the outside.
Chris Givens came along strong in the season and gives the Rams another young target. Tight end was a big problem area and the team went out and signed one of the best receiving tight ends in the free agent class in Jared Cook.
All of these weapons will not only help the growth of Sam Bradford, but the running game as a whole. NFL defenses will no longer be able to load the box to take away the run and thus it will open up holes for Stacy to capitalize on.
3. There is No Established Starter in St. Louis
Running back became a need area when Steven Jackson left. The team has 2012 draft picks Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson as players that produced on a limited basis for the team in 2012.
Richardson is slated as the early starter, but he only carried the ball less than 100 times. Richardson is much better as an outside runner and has that big play speed you look for. Even if Richardson comes on, Stacy has a chance to find a role and take carries away from him because of the fact that he is a much better prospect running in between the tackles.
Pead is someone to watch, but he may still have trouble grasping the playbook and the offense as he did last year. Stacy could feasible come in and take the reins of the starting role due to the fact he has the smarts, vision, and ball security to control carries and move the chains.
He did not catch many passes, but he wasn’t asked to at Vanderbilt. His hands are solid and his blocking above average and all of this leads to Stacy being able to grab a major role in the run game.
4. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer
No matter how you look at it, the offense will center on what the coordinator utilizes as the season progressed. Schottenheimer is a guy who loves to push the ball down field, but if you look at his history you will see that he leans heavily on his running back.
When he was with the New York Jets he leaned heavily on Shonn Greene to carry the load and LaDainian Tomlinson to create space as a receiver and outside runner.
As the team has a much better presence on the outside with their receivers and Tavon Austin and Jared Cook catching every ball thrown over the middle, this will open the run game up.
Expect Schottenheimer to utilize the ground game to open it up even more as he has in the past.
5. Alfred Morris Comparisons
I am never one to really compare players, but it is too easy to compare Morris and Stacy coming out of college and into an established offensive system. Morris and Stacy carry almost identical size, not to say that Stacy is very big.
He stands about 5'8" and 220 pounds. Although short, he is squatty and low to the ground and really can use his strength to break tackles and can YAC yardage for his team.
Morris thrived in the zone scheme that Mike Shanahan has used for ages and Stacy could find him in a similar role. Neither players blazes the 40 yard dash times, but each player is almost identical in the burst they show in 10 and 20 yard splits.
Stacy could have that same late round impact that Morris had in 2012, although not as historic as Morris pulled off.