Will Zac Stacy Be Successful with the New York Jets?

Surprisingly, the St. Louis Rams, with issues at just about every position EXCEPT for running back, decided take running back Todd Gurley 10th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Unsurprisingly, Zac Stacy requested a trade moments after that happened.  Which led to the Jets obtaining Stacy for the bargain basement price of a 7th round draft pick.

I say “unsurprisingly” as ever since Steven Jackson left town, running backs have had difficulty finding significant long term success in St. Louis.  Part of it may just be circumstantial, but part of it may be due to how St. Louis has been managing its roster, particularly in the draft.  Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, shall we?

The History

nfl-draft-590x900

Here are the running backs that the Rams have selected in drafts since 2012 (essentially since Steven Jackson moved on, as 2012 was his final season in St. Louis):

2012

  • Isaiah Pead – 2nd Round
  • Daryl Richardson – 7th Round

2013

  • Zac Stacy – 5th Round

2014

  • Tre Mason – 3rd Round

2015

  • Todd Gurley – 1st Round

And where are they now?

Isaiah Pead only had 17 total carries in two years totaling 75 yards and 0 touchdowns before moving to special teams and tearing his ACL in a 2014 preseason game.  His roster spot with the Rams is currently in question.

Daryl Richardson was slightly better off with 167 total carries in two years with the Rams totaling 690 yards and two touchdowns, but with a nagging turf toe injury, got waived by the when Tre Mason was drafted.  Richardson managed to get claimed by the New York Jets, but never made it on the roster, eventually getting signed to the practice squad and picking up a reserve/future deal.

So, clearly, Stacy understood that recent history had not been kind to Rams running backs, particularly those who had any sort of slump.

And Then There Was Zac

Zac Stacy - USA Today Photo

Zac Stacy – USA Today Photo

Stacy had a breakout 2012 season with 250 carries for 973 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns, adding 141 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown.  And his “effective yards” in 2012 was 998, indicating that he played even better than the numbers indicated.  Sky seemed to be the limit for Stacy.

Unfortunately, although Stacy began 2014 as the Rams starting running back, he had a relatively slow start with just 228 yards and one touchdown on 53 carries the first five weeks of the season.  After week 6, the Rams prematurely pulled the plug, giving Mason full reign and limiting Stacy to just 31 snaps in the next 10 games.  Stacy ended the season with just 293 rushing yards, 152 receiving yards and 1 touchdown.

The question remains, though, whether this was a result of declining skills or of a lack of opportunity.  Honestly, it looked to be an issue with lack of opportunity.  And although Stacy was arguably the best all around running back on the Rams prior to Gurley’s signing, it was clear he wasn’t going to get an opportunity to prove it.

Of course, that’s all the past.  What we’re concerned with now is how Stacy will fit in with the New York Jets.

The Jets already have Stevan Ridley, Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell on the roster.  Importantly, thought, Ridley is coming off an ACL surgery that cut short his time in New England, and there’s a whole new coaching staff in New York that was not involved with acquiring Ivory or Powell.

The New Jets

Chan Gailey - Getty Images

Chan Gailey – Getty Images

The Jets had a number of lingering issues during the off season, but change was on the way.  For instance, new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey ran a spread-type offense in Buffalo from 2010 to 2012, and is looking to do the same in New York.  So let’s take a look at how running backs fared in Buffalo during Gailey’s tenure.

In 2010, Buffalo was 13th best in the NFL in terms of rushing yards per attempt (4.3).  This improved dramatically in 2011 to 5th best (4.9) and again in 2012 to 4th best (5.0).  More importantly, the number of rushing attempts increase year after year until 2012 with 442 attempts, good for 13th in the NFL.  And perhaps more telling is that Gailey did this each year with multiple running backs.

Lynch & Jackson - Getty Images

Lynch & Jackson – Getty Images

In 2010, it was Fred Jackson (927 rushing yards), CJ Spiller (283 rushing yards) and Marshawn Lynch (164 rushing yards).  In 2011, it was Fred Jackson (934 rushing yards) and CJ Spiller (561 rushing yards).  And in 2012, it was CJ Spiller (1,244 rushing yards) and Fred Jackson (437 rushing yards).

So what does this mean for Zac Stacy and the New York Jets?  It means that Chan Gailey knows how to create space for his backfield to run and is likely to use a running back by committee.  And we also know that Gailey has no problems jettisoning running backs from the previous regime.  Case in point, Marshawn Lynch, whom he practically gave away for a fourth and fifth round draft pick after only starting three games during Gailey’s first season with the Bills.  With new Jets head coach Todd Bowles hoping to rebuild, a complete reboot in the backfield is not out of the question.

The point is, Zac Stacy still has the tools to succeed, and Chan Gailey’s system may be one of the best systems for him to do so.  Whether the Gurley pick was the best move for the Rams is questionable.  But moving to the Jets could be one of the best things that could have happened for Stacy.

——

So let me leave you with a bold prediction.  One year from today, people will look back on this tweet:

And will say “Wow, the Jets got away with highway robbery!”  But they won’t be referring to Brandon Marshall, they’ll be talking about Zac Stacy.

Put it on the board!

By Ha Kung Wong

Twitter: @FBGarbageTime

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