As the St. Louis Rams run down their list of priorities this offseason, they've made a point of addressing their situation at running back behind Steven Jackson.
Steven rushed for 1,416 yards last season, the second highest total of his career. By comparison, the rest of the team rushed collectively for just 368 yards, meaning S-Jax accounted for just under 80 percent of the Rams' ground gains in 2009.
With 324 of the team's 411 carries, No. 39 also got 79 percent of the touches when the Rams were running the football. The totals would no doubt be higher if SJ had not missed a game because of wear and tear.
With that in mind the Rams have set forth to try and give Steven some much needed assistance in the backfield and the main target seems to be in "fast" company.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers Willie Parker visited with the Rams last week and came away with hopes of reaching an agreement to add a change of pace to the St. Louis backfield, as his agent told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"Willie enjoyed the visit, enjoyed the coaches and the people he met," said Parker's agent, Douglas Hendrickson. "He liked the possibility of teaming up with Steven Jackson in the backfield."
Parker is a two-time Pro-Bowler, but rushed for just 389 yards in an injury plagued 2009 season. But the former Steeler starter is said to be healthy and could at the very least help the Rams keep some tread on Steven's tires, as the Post-Dispatch reports:
"Indications are that the Rams intend to find a strong backup to Jackson in the backfield. It's supposed to be a deep draft at the position, but if the Rams think highly enough of Parker it puts less pressure on them to select a running back during the three-day draft April 22-24."
At his best, Parker was a Super Bowl starter with track-star speed. He tallied 1,202 yards in helping lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl XL title behind former Ram Jerome Bettis. When Bettis retired after the season, Parker became the featured back and ran for 1,494 and 1,316 the next two years respectively. But his numbers have declined over the past two seasons and Parker did just turn 30, as Mike Sando of ESPN writes:
"If healthy, Parker could serve as an intriguing change-of-pace back behind Steve Jackson. He turns 30 in November, however, and that is often when running backs slow considerably. Parker missed five games in 2008. He started only three games last season, carrying 98 times for 389 yards and no touchdowns. He has caught only nine passes over the last two seasons and no more than 31 in any season. The Rams do need a backup running back. It's just important to accurately project what Parker offers at this stage of his career without getting caught up in what he once offered the Steelers."
Justin Stine of St. Louis Rams blog Ramblin' Fan likes the idea and thinks Parker would be a great fit behind SJ39:
"The Rams need a change-of-pace back, and Parker could still be very effective in a more limited role.
Steven can’t keep carrying the complete load, especially with the quarterback situation for next season unclear, so the team will have to address the position at some point. Having the veteran presence of a guy who has spent a vast majority of his career on a winning team could greatly benefit the offense over the next few years. Like I said before, this isn’t a move that automatically makes us a great team, but it seems like a logical addition that would add some depth to the offense. As long as the price tag isn’t outrageous, I would like to fully endorse this move and I hope the team gives it some very serious consideration."
St. Louis has already re-signed last season's second leading rusher, Kenneth Darby. Darby for 152 yards on just 27 attempts and also had 18 catches for 96 yards.
Fast Willie Parker visiting Rams (Ramblin' Fan, March 17, 2010)
Rams getting plenty of visitors these days (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 2010)
Around the NFC West: 49ers intrigue (ESPN.com, March 18, 2010)