At some point between the moment he was selected with the 50th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft and the end of his rookie campaign, Isaiah Pead lost his confidence.
In an April interview with the University of Cincinnati’s official website, Pead admitted that his rookie season was “miserable.” He talked about sitting alone in his house and throwing a tennis ball up against the wall, lonely and frustrated by failing to make an impact in his first year in the pros.
After averaging 5.3 yards per carry with 1,259 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns as a senior at Cincinnati, his rookie season with the Rams didn’t exactly go as planned. Due to a late graduation, Pead missed OTAs and then watched as seventh-rounder Daryl Richardson outperformed him during the preseason. While Pead was tentative and overwhelmed, Richardson was decisive and eager. This led to Pead gaining just 54 yards on 10 carries for the season.
But despite his lack of production, there’s plenty to love about Pead heading into his sophomore year. First and foremost, graduation won’t keep him from attending OTAs, so there’s no excuse for him to start slowly this summer. He also doesn’t have to worry about the face of the franchise being leery of taking his job.
Back in July of last year, Steven Jackson made it clear on PFT Live that he wouldn’t be too pleased if the Rams attempted to make Pead a big part of their offense. Said Jackson, “I actually see him being a backup. If it’s the way I want it, to continue to live out the legacy of my career, I will continue to be the workhorse. He can relieve me at times during the game, or when we need a change of pace against the defense.”
Did Jackson have a negative impact on Pead’s development? It wouldn’t be fair to speculate. Besides, the only person Pead has to blame for his lack of production is himself. Whether Jackson ignored him or treated him like a long-lost brother is irrelevant. The bottom line is that Richardson took his opportunities and ran with them. Pead didn’t.
Still, production is as much about opportunity as it is talent. And with Jackson now in Atlanta, there shouldn’t be a shortage of opportunities for both Pead and Richardson.
Pead is the perfect fit for the offense that Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have been building the past two offseasons. The additions of Jared Cook, Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey show the Rams’ desire to spread the field. Fisher knows that the key to any offense is balance, and the Rams will still run the ball plenty. But he’s also not blind to the fact that the NFL has become a space game; if you don’t have playmakers that can create in the open field, your offense will be limited.
The smallish Pead won’t be able to continuously pound the ball between the tackles. That’s not his game. His strengths lie in his quickness, speed and ability to create in the open field. That’s why Fisher and Snead drafted him in the second round last year, and that’s what they hope to highlight in 2013.
The idea is to spread opponents out and make them pick their poison. A healthy and upright Sam Bradford should be able to accurately get the ball to his assortment of weapons in the passing game. And with the defense back on its heels, Pead should have the necessary space to do his thing. It’s just a matter of him putting the past behind him and keeping his bright future in focus.
This offseason the Rams had every opportunity to re-sign Jackson, or draft a potential workhorse back like Eddie Lacy with one of their first-round picks. They opted to do neither.
The Rams’ confidence in Pead remains. If his returns, then don’t be surprised if he’s on the verge of a breakout season.