The Rams have the benefit of having one of the NFL’s finest running backs in Stephen Jackson. The team has relied heavily on him while waiting for their rebuilding process to play out. Though Jackson’s yards per carry and rushing yards were down in 2011, his touchdown totals were up a tick. The drop in rushing yards and per carry average can be attributed to the Rams leaning heavily on him in part due to rookie Quarterback Sam Bradford learning the system.
While serviceable, Kenneth Darby isn’t a fearsome number two back that many teams have. The Rams need an explosive change of back to ease the load when they spread out the defense. To expect Stephen Jackson to continue to carry the load at this stage in his career is unfair, and will inevitably break him down. The outside shot could go to Keith Toston. The undrafted Free agent was a beast in the Big 12 and finished second in rushing in the conference in his senior year.
The Rams may be best served by taking a chance on a player like Clinton Portis. If he has anything left in the tank, he could serve a role
similar to LaDainian Tomlinson’s for the New York Jets. He is a professional and is a great locker room presence that can lighten moods and take pressure off of Jackson.
With another year under their belt, the offensive line should look much better. Chemistry started to develop within the line late in the year and rookie Roger Saffold found his footing within a more experienced unit. The offense will be learning a new system under Josh McDaniels and it looks to be more complicated than Pat Shurmur’s slimmed down attack.
It is easy to foresee McDaniels bringing in some of his favorite players from his stops in Denver and New England. It is also foreseeable that the Rams will take another lineman in the second or third round. They need help at wide receiver and safety, and getting a top flight wideout may be the best thing for the running game. If defenses can no longer put 8-9 man fronts against the Rams, it will make plenty of running lanes for Jackson.
If the Rams land a number one wide receiver, or just get Michael Clayton and Donnie Avery healthy, that could mean great things for the running game.
If one of the backups steps up, or they get a veteran to spell Stephen Jackson, this rushing offense could be a top three squad and move deep into the playoffs.