Among current players on the St. Louis Rams’ roster, there aren’t too many that seem to be more disliked by fans than running back Isaiah Pead. After all, the University of Cincinnati product hasn’t exactly lived up to his potential through his first two seasons in the NFL; after being selected with the 50th pick overall in the 2012 draft, Pead has totaled just 17 rushing attempts for 75 yards while playing 142 total snaps from scrimmage. Coupled with that, he’s been passed on the depth chart at points by 2012 seventh-rounder Daryl Richardson, 2013 fifth-rounder Zac Stacy, and undrafted free agent Benny Cunningham while also dealing with the embarrassment of a one-game drug suspension at the beginning of last season. It’s safe to say that it’s been a rough ride thus far for the former second-rounder.
With the Rams’ selection of Auburn back Tre Mason in the third round of this year’s draft, many expected that Pead was on his way out the door. With the Rams having held onto Pead while releasing the slightly more productive Richardson, however, it signified that there was more hope for Pead. That intrigue intensified on Tuesday, as Rams special teams coach John Fassel spoke his thoughts on Pead and gave him a glowing review. In response to a question about Pead’s role on special teams, Fassel said “gosh, I think about him a lot and his development… around midseason last year how he really committed to special teams, and not only was a contributor, but was a high impact guy for us… I would imagine he’s going to have a fantastic preseason.”
Fassel’s comments would seem to signify that Pead has a definite edge for a roster spot that will likely come down to either him or another running back and stud special-teamer, Chase Reynolds. Reynolds, who is beginning his fourth year in the Rams’ program, spent his first season on the active roster in 2013. Reynolds, a former undrafted free agent, didn’t get any offensive action last season. With that in mind, Pead’s ability to contribute from scrimmage at least in a pinch makes him a more desirable option than Reynolds. In addition, Pead can play the “gunner” role very well, lining up on the outside and flying down the field on the punt team, and that is arguably the most valuable position that a special teams coverage player can fill. Fassel also remarked that Pead was doing well in practice as a kick returner, so that may be something to watch out for looking forward.
With that said, Pead will have to keep up his increased level of dedication through the next few months. After failing to meet his potential and rise up the running back depth chart, missing numerous opportunities to cement himself as the Rams’ back of the future, Pead needs to show that he can be consistent in his new role. If he can’t, it would be a shame to see a guy like Reynolds, who has paid his dues and worked so hard to earn a job in the NFL, get pushed out for the door to accommodate a player who has not delivered on the numerous chances he’s been given in the past.