EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams running back Zac Stacy fell 27 yards short of reaching 1,000 for his rookie season, an accomplishment that would have been impressive given he barely played the first quarter of the season.
As Stacy prepares for Year 2, however, he's not concerning himself with any numbers or statistical milestones. Instead, Stacy is working on all the little details that can keep him on the field for all three downs and make him productive for those snaps.
"Really for me, it’s not the success I had last year," Stacy said. "I still have a lot of improving to do. That’s what I’m most excited about. That’s what I’m most excited about, the improvement I can make to be a better running back, be a better complete back, running, protecting and catching balls out of the backfield, so that’s really just my main focus right now."
Naturally, the running portion of his job is important. It's also the area where Stacy flashed the most promise as a fifth-round rookie out of Vanderbilt. He finished the year with 973 rushing yards, 141 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Along the way, Stacy had some big performances, especially in home games against Seattle, Tennessee and New Orleans.
But Stacy and the running game as a whole struggled in three road games against tough NFC West defenses to close the season. None more so than the regular-season finale against the Seahawks when he rushed for 15 yards on 15 carries. Those struggles left Stacy with a 3.9 yards per carry average.
Perhaps of more concern was the fact that Stacy battled some bumps and bruises that cost him time along the way. Most notable was a dominant effort against Chicago in which he rushed for 87 yards on 12 first-half carries, but didn't play in the second half because of a concussion.
One of Stacy's offseason goals has been to do all he can to prevent further minor injuries, though he is the first to acknowledge that is a difficult proposition at his position.
"As a running back, we take more hits so it’s very important to take care of your body," Stacy said. "Doing all the little things off the field, eating right, taking care of your body after practice, things like that."
Beyond his health, Stacy also has made improved pass protection a point of emphasis for this season. He wasn't horrible in blitz pickup last season, but had moments where he could have been better. In the team's loss to Carolina, Stacy didn't get enough of blitzing safety Quintin Mikell, who hit quarterback Sam Bradford as he threw, which led to an interception returned for a touchdown. It was a deficit the Rams never made up.
"Sam Bradford, you look at him and he’s the money man so it’s very important to protect his butt," Stacy said. "We take pride in that as running backs and we’re going to continue to do that."
Improving on all of the little details will undoubtedly be important for Stacy if he wants to continue as the team's primary back. The Rams surprised many by using a third-round pick on running back Tre Mason.
Early indications from the Rams are that Mason, along with Benny Cunningham, will serve as a change of pace to Stacy, but Stacy knows full well that job security is only as strong as your last performance. After all, he became the starter after four ineffective and injury-plagued weeks for Daryl Richardson last year.
"There's going to be competition," Stacy said. "No doubt about it."