There has been a lot of concern and gnashing of teeth since the NFL draft with regards to the Rams backup running back situation, but I don’t see it. A great offensive line can make a great running back. Also, the Rams have the players on their roster to spell Steven Jackson.
First and foremost, running backs are overrated. Great offensive lines can make great running backs. Don’t get me wrong. There are star running backs that are stars no matter the offensive line in front of them. Steven Jackson and Adrian Peterson are in the forefront in that group. But without holes created by the offensive line – Jackson and Peterson are going to struggle even though they are superstars. See: Jackson, Steven, 2008. The Rams have improved their offensive line significantly and have added blocking specialist Mike Karney to the fullback position. All of the Rams running backs are due for a bounce back year.
However, take a look at the Denver Broncos over the past few years. They have had a revolving door of running backs have a lot of success even though they were not highly touted before getting to Denver. The Broncos knew what sort of running back fit their system and picked them up on the cheap and exchanged them like trading cards. They knew that their line would do the grunt work and the running back would make one cut and run downhill to daylight.
The Rams have enough running backs to compete for the #2 running back job. Let’s take a look.
Antonio Pittman (pictured) – 5’11” 195 – Pittman has shown he still has growing to do. He is great in the open field, but because of offensive line troubles, did not have many opportunities in the open field. Pittman came out of college too early because of the development of Beanie Wells at Ohio State, so could still have some developing to do.
Brian Leonard – 6’1″ 226 – I thought Leonard was a good pick when he was drafted, however, he is not big or strong enough to be a fullback and he is not fast enough or agile enough to be a running back. Seems to be a draft pick wasted in RB/FB tweener hell.
Kenneth Darby – 5’10” 211 – Darby was picked up off of the practice squad of the Atlanta Falcons in 2008. He has shown some flashes, as long as he can stay away from the umpire.
Samkon Gado – 5’10” 226 – Samkon was a great story for a short time with the Green Bay Packers, but does not have much of a future with the Rams.
Chris Ogbonnaya – 6’0″ 220 – Ogbonnaya is a great athlete and should be able to develop into a good player, may not make an impact in 2009.