Rams’ Stacy Looks to Replicate Rookie Success
17 Jun 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. — It is often said that the biggest improvement for many NFL players occurs in their second season. There is a full offseason program following a year in which rookies are thrown quickly into the mix after the whirlwind that comes with preparing for the draft. Very quickly, those rookies have to learn what is involved with being a pro.

As the St. Louis Rams began their final week of organized team activities, one of those second-year players explained the difference in 2014 compared to 2013 even with the production he was able to achieve as a rookie.
Said running back Zac Stacy, the team’s fifth-round pick in 2013, “The good thing about last year is that I enjoyed success while gaining experience. It feels very different because you know what to expect, know your role on the team. Last year, as rookies, we were all running around like chickens with our heads cut off.”
Now, Stacy is concentrating on simply getting better after a season in which he fell just 27 yards short of 1,000 yards despite having one rushing attempt for four yards in the first four games of the season two of which he was inactive.
“For me, despite the success I had last year, I still have a lot of improvement to do,” Stacy said. “That’s what I’m most excited about; the improvement I can make to become a better running back, to be a complete back – running, protecting and catching balls out of the backfield.”

Running back Daryl Richardson opened the 2013 season as the starter, and had 20 carries for 63 yards in a season-opening win over Arizona. The notion that the Rams suddenly returned to a ground-oriented attack after four games is refuted by the attempts Richardson had in that first game. But Richardson also suffered a toe injury in the opener. He continued to play, but had just 35 yards on 10 attempts in Week 2 against Atlanta.

In Week 3, Richardson was 4-for-16 and Isaiah Pead 6-for-20 against Dallas. The worst was a 35-11 loss in a Week 4 Thursday night game against San Francisco when Richardson was benched after a first half total of 16 yards on 12 carries. Benny Cunningham managed just six yards on four second-half attempts. With a few extra days to regroup, the decision was made to start Stacy in Week 5 against Jacksonville. He responded with 78 yards on 14 attempts, the Rams won 34-20 and Stacy became the workhorse.

Now, he is competing to keep that job after the Rams selected Tre Mason in the third round of this year’s draft. Richardson was released after Mason was picked.
Both Stacy (Vanderbilt) and Mason (Auburn) excelled in the rough and tumble world of the SEC, and Stacy welcomes Mason’s arrival.
Said Stacy, “I’m happy for Tre and glad he’s here. There’s going to be competition, no doubt about it.”

For his part, Mason said, “I respect his style of play. We’re going to become a great duo together. I played against Zac my sophomore year, and he took over the game when we played him. I’m willing to put in work with him.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer noted there will be competition at the position and that it also includes Pead and Cunningham.
“Right now, competition is for who’s the starter,” Schottenheimer said Tuesday. “We’re just going to let them all roll and see what happens. Zac’s obviously a really, really good player, but we’re going to create competition for all the guys. That’s a long way off, but we know we have a good stable group of backs and they all have different skill sets, which we’ll try to use throughout the course of the year.”

When a surprised reporter asked if that means Stacy isn’t guaranteed to be the starter, Schottenheimer said, “No, not at all. We’re just trying to create competition. That’s what we’re trying to do and whoever wins the job, wins the job. But I expect to see multiple guys carry the football.”
Stacy understands that one season does not a career make.

“My goal is to be as productive and as consistent as possible. My main emphasis is studying the playbook and knowing it like the back of my hand. By doing that, I’ll be able to play faster and smarter. Really for me, it’s not the success I had last year. I still have a lot of improving to do. That’s what I’m most excited about, the improvement I can make to be a better running back, be a better complete back, running, protecting and catching balls out of the backfield, so that’s really just my main focus right now.

“My goal is to be as productive and as consistent as possible. My main emphasis is studying the playbook and knowing it like the back off my hand. By doing that, I’ll be able to play faster and smarter.”
Stacy wasn’t bad in pass protection last season, but he did have a few hiccups. He knows that’s an often unsung part of the job for a running back, especially when he can be the last line of defense before the quarterback potentially gets pummeled.

He concluded, “Sam Bradford, you look at him and he’s the money man so it’s very important to protect his butt. We take pride in that as running backs and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Fantasy Update: Stacy is poised for a big sophomore campaign after an impressive rookie year. He’s a strong, compact runner with good power, and he should benefit tremendously from the addition of rugged rookie lineman Greg Robinson. Even though he plays in a tough division, we highly recommend Stacy in the late first round or early second round of drafts.

Howard Balzer

This post was written by sports

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