By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) Nine weeks ago, St. Louis Rams rookie running back Zac Stacy was a healthy scratch against the Atlanta Falcons.
With 129 carries and 537 yards later, Stacy’s fourth in the league in rushing over the past six games and has emerged as the Rams’ best offensive weapon.
Compactly built (5’8”, 225 pounds) with a low center of gravity, Stacy displays excellent vision, balance, toughness and burst as a one-cut runner.
Additionally, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and offensive line coach Paul Boudreau have been varied with their designs. They’re deploying Stacy from two-back, one-back and shotgun sets, running lead, wind backs, zone and power blocking schemes.
Let’s go to the film room and take a closer look at how the Rams are maximizing Stacy’s skills in the run game.
Outsize Zone Toss
The Rams come out in ‘22’ personnel (2 running backs, 2 tight ends) in an I-formation. The Panthers respond with their base 4-3 personnel in an eight-man box.
The Rams motion Lance Kendricks across the formation, creating an extra gap on what ends up being the playside.
Instead of double-teaming the 9-technique defensive end, the Rams single block him with Kendricks and pull the playside tackle. This creates two lead blockers – fullback and tackle – on the edge. The rest of the line executes their zone blocking assignments.
The pulling playside tackle – Joe Barksdale (#72) – kicks out the cornerback and Stacy follows Cory Harkey (#46) to the perimeter, pressing to the second level.
After working through the wash, Stacy breaks an arm tackle and bounces it to the outside for a 21-yard gain.
Inside Zone Wind Back
Against the Seahawks, the Rams come out in ‘21’ personnel (2 running backs, 1 tight end) in an offset I-formation. The Seahawks respond with their base 4-3 personnel, walking the strong safety up to form an eight-man front.
The Rams give the appearance of an inside zone weak, but this is a designed cutback for Stacy.
They send tight end Lance Kendricks to the left flat, drawing safety Kam Chancellor with him, and bring fullback Cory Harkey on a wind back block across the formation.
Jake Long and Chris Williams combo block the playside defensive tackle. Stacy follows and reads the leverage of Harkey’s block on defensive end Chris Clemons at the point of attack.
Harkey blocks Clemons inside and linebacker KJ Wright scrapes over the top. Stacy makes one decisive cut inside of Wright up the middle, getting to the third level of the Seahawks defense.
This is another clever design by the Rams. They sent Kendricks to the flats on a quick out, which Chancellor has to respect in case it’s a play-action pass. The offset fullback combined with Stacy’s initial run action gets the linebackers flowing left and caught up in the wash on the cutback, and the Rams trust Stacy’s ability to make one defender miss in the hole.
Here’s another play from the Seahawks game, this time out of ‘11’ personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end) in a single-back set. The Seahawks respond with a 3-4 look. The Rams run a “Stretch G” pulling the playside guard Harvey Dahl.
The Rams down block with the playside tackle, kick out with the tight end, and seal off the backside defenders. Dahl clears linebacker KJ Wright out of the hole.
Stacy presses the line of scrimmage reading the leverage of Dahl’s block. With the linebacker turned out, Stacy cuts inside and quickly makes it to the third level of the Seahawks defense for a first down.
This was perfect execution at the point of attack by the Rams blockers and patience by Stacy.
For a team desperate for playmakers on offense, Stacy’s early arrival has been a pleasant surprise for the Rams. Given the Bears deficiencies against the run – they’re giving up an average of 170 rushing yards over their past five games – the Rams will feed Stacy the ball early and often.
The Rams have limited playmakers in the passing game and a quarterback who reads the field low-to-high, thus, the Bears will likely drop Major Wright into the box as the eighth run defender.
As demonstrated above, the Rams have devised ways to get Stacy into the open field and he’s adept at working through and spinning off arm tackles. The Bears must be fundamentally sound with their open-field tackling, as if they aren’t, Stacy will run wild.
Questions about this playbook or suggestions for a future playbook? Follow Dan on Twitter: @djdurkin