Solutions hard to find for Rams in run game

September, 28, 2013
9/28/13
2:00
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- After two of the ugliest offensive performances any team in the league has put up in the past couple of weeks, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher wants to make some changes.

“We’re going to have to, as we’ve already started, kind of adjust our offensive philosophy to, I think, what’s probably better suited for us right now,” Fisher said. “And that’s to hand it off, and everything else spins off of that.”

After an offseason of adding speed on the perimeter with the likes of Jared Cook and Tavon Austin with the intent to build an offense around the right arm of quarterback Sam Bradford, a philosophical shift is coming, but not the one anyone expected.

Despite the offense’s success in up-tempo, no-huddle looks, the Rams want to get back to what Fisher has had the majority of his coaching success doing: run the ball.

[+] EnlargeDaryl Richardson
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceWith Daryl Richardson and the Rams run game scuffling, coach Jeff Fisher said he may consider outside options for a solution.
One pretty big problem with that: The Rams have showed absolutely no ability to do that effectively in 2013. The offensive line hasn’t opened many holes, and there isn’t a running back on the roster who has proved capable of making anyone miss or picking up yards after contact on a consistent basis.

The Rams have just 189 rushing yards this season, which ranks 29th in the league. Mind you, the Rams rank that low despite having played one more game than every team in the league except San Francisco. They’re averaging 2.59 yards per carry, which is second to last in the NFL, and are getting 1.15 yards after contact per rush.

That anemic run game has been even worse in the past two weeks, gaining 1.71 yards per attempt on 31 tries with a long of 11 yards. The Rams also sit 31st in the league in third-down conversions at 25.9 percent in no small part because of an inability to gain yards on the ground to get into more manageable third downs and move the chains on the few occasions they get into third-and-short.

“Frustrating,” Fisher said. “It is. We’ve got work to do. It’s been -- again, 75 carries against any defense for that matter is difficult over that period of time in a short week and we talk about teams that can run it.”

Clearly, the Rams need to get the running game going in some capacity, and I have to believe that when Fisher speaks of running the ball more, he simply means he wants to find ways to be successful as his teams in the past have been rather than some sort of major shift in which the Rams suddenly line up in power I-formations and hammer away with a fullback.

Either way, it’s going to be difficult for the Rams to get the run game going until one of their backs shows the ability to take over the job.

They hoped it would be Daryl Richardson, who won the starting job early in camp. Richardson has been slowed by a foot injury but has struggled rushing anyway. A one-cut-and-go runner in his rookie season, Richardson isn’t particularly adept at making tacklers miss or shaking loose when a defender gets his hands on him.

Isaiah Pead was also supposed to factor, but after he missed the first game because of a substance abuse suspension, he wasn’t even active against San Francisco.

“He’s had a couple moments, yeah, over the last couple of weeks,” Fisher said. “But I didn’t put him down because of that.”

Fisher said the Rams intended to use Austin in the backfield against the 49ers in a role similar to what Pead had played, but those plans were scrapped early.

Rookie Benny Cunningham has had some opportunities but hasn’t had much success either, and fifth-round pick Zac Stacy was active last week but played just one snap.

Clearly, the Rams’ drastic inability to run the ball isn’t solely the product of the backs. They aren’t getting much help from the offensive line. And that doesn’t even touch on the struggles of the backs to help in pass protection.

“We’ll evaluate the running back situation based on the types of things we come up from the run game need,” Fisher said. “We’re going to look at it this week, and we’ll definitely have a plan in place when we come back.”

The Rams don’t appear to have any obvious solutions for the position in house, and it would make a lot of sense to, as Fisher says, look at possible outside options to at least give them some semblance of a run game and some reliability picking up the blitz.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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