ronnie-brown-eas

The hunt for Steven Jackson’s backup continues.

I wasn’t able to get to Rams practice today, but one who did was Zach Roman, known by his Twitter handle @BlazinBox. And he just might have come away with the juiciest tidbit of the day.

BlazinBox
Shook devaney’s hand, and he said at least one more move coming “hint it begins with a R and a B”

And he clarified that he meant position not necessarily ronnie brown… #ramscamp

This adds even more weight to the rumors that have been flying this weekend about the Rams and their pursuit of a trio of available running backs: Former Falcons Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood, and ex-Dolphin Ronnie Brown.

We make a case for each, after the break:

Ronnie Brown, MIA

Career Stats: 4815 yards rushing, 1491 yards receiving, 38 combined TDs. Drafted 1st round, 2005. Age: 29

Brown is easily the most established of this group, a former first round draft pick with near-workhorse usage while paired with Ricky Williams in Miami’s run-first, run-second offense. Brown is also an able pass-blocker, perhaps not on Clinton Portis’ level but willing to put his hat down and protect his man. If the Rams are looking for a guy who can step in on any down or take over for Jackson on a series-by-series basis, or if the team is afraid Jackson might go down for an extended stretch of time, Brown is the clear winner.

However, Brown’s seniority could also be a liability, especially considering that he has crossed the mythical “Age-28″ barrier to a running back’s career. Even though he has not been a signature back, he has racked up more than 200 touches in four of his six professional seasons, and aquired plenty of wear along the way. And after spending most of his career healthily north of 4 yards per carry, his average run dropped to 3.7 last year. Brown’s fumble numbers saw a small spike as well, putting three balls on the ground in 2010 after losing only two in ’08-09 combined.

But, if this photo is any indication, Ronnie can run through brick walls. We have plenty of those in Saint Louis. So there’s that.

Jason Snelling cares not for your crotch grab maneuverJason Snelling, ATL

Career Stats: 1042 yards rushing, 641 yards receiving, 11 combined TDs. Drafted 7th round, 2007. Age: 27

Few would know Jason Snelling’s name, but for an injury to fantasy workhorse Michael Turner in 2009. Snelling started two games in Turner’s stead and scored three touchdowns in two starts while mixing in a pass-catching ability that Turner has never had. He earned a steady backup role in Atlanta’s offense after that, and has attached a couple more accolades to his resume with a pair of 20+ carry, 120+ yard rushing performances in spot duty.

Snelling has never commanded enough work to put any significant wear on his tires, and would presumably be fresh-legged. His yards-per-carry numbers have never been outstanding, as you might expect from a career backup. But if the Rams were looking for a pure backup, and a guy who could fill in for a game here or there if Jackson gets dinged up, then Snelling is an ideal candidate.

Like Michael Turner himself, a career backup to Ladanian Tomlinson in San Diego who seldom saw significant touches until LT went injured, there’s a small chance that Snelling could evolve from unheralded backup to full-time starter. In that situation, the Rams could save themselves a high draft pick next year on Jackson’s heir apparent.

Jerious Norwo- that hair! look at that hair!Jerious Norwood, ATL

Career Stats: 1995 yards rushing, 912 yards receiving, 3084 yards returning kicks, 10 combined TDs. Drafted 3rd round, 2006. Age: 28

Jerious Norwood, the only one of these three to appear on ProFootballFocus’ “Elusive Rankings” list, has been a breakout candidate for seemingly his entire career. And yet, break out he hasn’t. Whether Warrick Dunn or Michael Turner or Even Michael Vick, there has always been someone ahead of him on the food chain despite a gaudy 5.3 yards-per-carry average for his career.

Part of the reason for that is that Norwood is not your traditional between-the-tackles runner, something the Falcons have clearly prized. Even the diminuitive Dunn was sent crashing through the line more often than not, while Norwood is much more of a “weapon in space.” This is maginified by his dangerous ability on kick returns, something that fans of keeping Danny Amendola healthy will be excited for.

While he has taken significantly fewer hits than most 28-year-old backs, Norwood is coming off a serious ACL injury that sent him on the IR after only 3 touches in two games. So in that vein, he represents the biggest risk.

However, he might also potentially represent the biggest reward with his game-breaking ability. If the Rams are happy feeding a healthy Steven Jackson 20 times per game, and want to do the most possible damage with the 5-10 touches left over, you couldn’t ask for a better weapon than Norwood. Also, as a Mississippi State product, his talents are well known by the venerable Rams running backs coach, Sylvester Croom.

If I were Billy Devaney:

I’d have much more hair, for one thing. But I might look at Jackson returning to camp looking slimmer and sleeker and still running with power, and I might not be shy in betting on his ability to handle a full load for another season. And with that said, I might make the move on Norwood, of these three.

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