Thursday, June 23, 2011

Could Tiki Barber Be an Option For the Rams?

As the NFL lockout entered day number 100 today, the Rams remain helpless as far as finding some help for Steven Jackson in the backfield.

Until the league and the players reach some sort of agreement, they'll remain handcuffed and won't be able to sign any free agents.

In the meantime, it remains pretty clear that finding Jackson's backup is a high priority.

The 27-year-old Jackson already has 1,878 rushes combined throughout his seven year career.

Out of his six season as the team's starting running back he's averaging 290.66 carries a season, which is actually pretty average for a full-time runner, but the amount of carries is not terribly troubling alone.

His bruising style of play forces his body to take a considerable amount of abuse each week, and those 290 carries a season takes a bigger toll on a power back like Jackson, as oppose to maybe a guy like Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans.

This forces the Rams to make finding a third down running back a primary objective in free agency.

But it's not just Jackson's workload that forces the Rams to face the issue, it's also the newly hired offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

McDaniels frequently works multiple backs in his offensive schemes-- such as the Denver Broncos last season, who had Knowshon Moreno take the majority of the snaps (182 carries), but Laurence Maroney (74), Correll Buckhalter (59) and Lance Ball (41) had a combined 174 carries as well; and the 2007 New England Patriots had Maroney (185), Sammy Morris (85) and Kevin Faulk (62) combine for 332 attempts.

Steven Jackson will not sit ideally by and cough up half of his carries to a backup, since he prides himself on being the team's primary back-- but that doesn't mean the coaches are stupid enough to watch him rapidly deteriorate in front of their own eyes.

The Rams will likely target a free agent back that fits the mold of the stereotypical "third down running back"-- it will be a smaller guy that runs with speed and agility, and it will preferably be someone who is a threat as a receiver as well.

The general consensus among fans suggests that the Rams will target Darren Sproles of the San Diego Chargers.

Sproles fits the "third down back" mold perfectly, and he'd even help on kick and punt returns, which would allow Danny Amendola to focus solely on his duties as a wide receiver.

And it's not just speculation that suggests Sproles is the guy-- prior to the 2009 season the Rams attempted to bring Sproles to St. Louis for a visit during free agency before he ultimately returned to the Chargers, so that should tell us that coach Steven Spagnuolo and General Manager Billy Deveney approve of him.

However, given the philosophy of McDaniels' previous offensive schemes, it's possible that Sproles by himself will not be enough, and McDaniels might be looking to sign a third running back capable of taking carries.

Tiki Barber retired after a ten season career with the New York Giants immediately after the 2006 season, just shortly before his 32nd birthday.

His retirement was certainly not due to a decline in his play, as that 2006 season brought him 1,662 rushing yards (2nd in the NFC), as well as 465 receiving yards.

His exit from the game was due to an overall difference in opinion between himself and the head coach, mainly due to the fact that he felt he deserved more carries.

But last March, Barber filed the necessary paperwork in order to come out of retirement officially, which means the 36-year-old will be looking for a running back job for an NFL team this Fall.

On the same day Barber filed the paperwork, the Giants (who still own his contract) officially confirmed to the media that they will immediately release him as soon as the lockout ends, which means the elderly running back will be available to any team that wants to take a shot at him.

So could he fit in with St. Louis?

Given the constant disputes between Barber and Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, as well as Barber's overall willingness to express his opinions through the media, it's likely that he doesn't fit the philosophy that St. Louis is trying to build-- that philosophy concentrates on acquiring players with high quality personalities, who put the team before themselves.

But is Barber truly that low and shady of a character?

He has a clean legal rap sheet, and he doesn't miss team meetings or partake in any other activities that frequently result in fines or penalties. He's basically under scrutiny just for having opinions.

Expressing those opinions to the national media is probably an error in judgement, but it's not like he's incapable of being supportive, it's just that the bad comments get the most attention from the media.

And after a four year absence from the game, Barber seems humbled. He seems like someone who won't likely cause problems, especially since whatever team signs him is the team that's giving him a second chance.

"The game never needs you because there's always someone else to come and take your place", said Barber during an interview on HBO's Real Sports. "But right now, I need the game. I need to prove to myself that I can be successful at something".

Coach Spagnuolo has experience with Barber during his time as the Giants' defensive coordinator, so if he shows interest in Barber, then that should be a testament to how genuine Barber's new attitude truly is.

But how does he fit in with the team?

He can't come in and be the Rams' No.2 running back. That position is too important to try and fill it with a gamble like Barber.

However, if the team can sign a player such as Darren Sproles, then it wouldn't be a terrible idea to at least give Barber a look as the team's No.3 running back, and of course pay him the league minimum.

If Barber is even half the player he was in 2006, which is possible since his body has not taken any hits during the past four years, then he could be valuable as the third running back on the roster.

Whether he will actually get carries during the games is another matter, but it's important to build depth in order to prepare for any scenario.

If Steven Jackson is injured for a long period of time at any point in 2011 (knock on wood), then the Rams could possibly survive with Sproles and Barber sharing the carries, assuming Barber still has at least something left to offer.

At the very least he can be cut from the roster without consequence, but in a best case scenario he provides the offense with depth in case of an emergency, so that alone should be enough to earn him a tryout.    

No comments:

Post a Comment