With the Rams running back situation currently in a state of disarray I wanted to take a look at who was really to blame for their running game problems. The running backs suffer from a lack of elite talent, but they should be able to produce at least replacement level production and aren’t so far this season. The offensive line was supposed to get a boost from the signing of Jake Long, but he hasn’t played up to expectations and the rest of the offensive line are not doing the job. The real problem seems to be the running game concepts and the play calling.
For an example I picked an early play from the first quarter of the 49ers Vs. Rams game from last Thursday to demonstrate the problems. The score was 0-0 and the Rams were driving towards the first score of the game in a big divisional game. The situation was 2nd and 2 at the 22 yardline of the 49ers at 8:08 of the first quarter.
The Rams come out in 21 personnel with the Fullback (who was a college tight end) Cory Harkey lined up to the weak side. The 49ers are in a base 3-4 and both safeties are deep. It is an ideal situation for the Rams to pick up an easy first down.
With most running plays the design is always to leave the running back with a one on one situation with a defensive back. Even if your lineman can’t sustain a block on a linebacker if you impede the linebacker’s path to the hole you can pick up positive yardage. With this alignment there are a few plays that can pick up a short first down, but quite a few that could produce a long gainer. I would be attacking the strong side of this defense. I would block down from the RT down and bring Harkey over to wham on the defensive end. Kendricks who has been a poor blocker this year would only be asked to wall off the outside linebacker and the RT Joe Barksdale would block down on Navarro Bowman. You double-team Dorsey to wall off the backside ILB and Williams is asked to make sure there’s no penetration from Justin Smith.
The only glaring flaw that I could see looking at the personnel pre-snap is that Harkey is not a natural fullback and lacks running game instincts. If Ray McDonald really squeezes down then Harkey can log him and Richardson can bounce outside the block and inside of the Kendrick’s block. Let’s see how the Rams decided to attack this juicy defensive set up.
As you can see the Rams decided to run to the strong side, but had a very poor run game design. ILB Navarro Bowman is completely left alone and the fullback is not even utilized. I can’t be sure that Harkey actually did the right thing on this play, but the blocking scheme on the strong side is more worrisome. There was absolutely no reason to double team Ray McDonald on this play. They leave the center singled up with Glenn Dorsey who immediately feels the run going to his left and takes the center for a ride. The hole just isn’t there. If Harkey had attacked Bowman there would have been a very nice cutback seam for Richardson, but for some reason he buries his head into Justin Smith’s legs. Daryl Richardson can’t bounce it outside because of the the way Kendricks is asked to block the OLB. He can’t cut back inside because Bowman is left alone and is shadowing him in the hole. He was lucky to be tackled for no gain.
This is the play I would have called. I am not saying it would have been a touchdown, but it definitely has a much better chance at succeeding. You have to put your players in the best situation to succeed. If you ask too much of a player you can’t be upset if they don’t come through.
The insertion of power back Zac Stacy should help the Rams move the ball even when there is the smallest of holes. I am hoping the Rams use a combination of Richardson and Stacy and take a look at their core running game concepts to make changes. I don’t recommend blowing your entire budget in your fantasy football league on the news that Stacy is starting, he is definitely worth a stash in all 12 team leagues are larger.