The St. Louis Rams will feed defenses a steady diet of Zac Stacy this season, as he’ll be the mainstay with Benny Cunningham as the No. 2 RB and Tre Mason sitting behind him after a slow start. Stacy is too good to not lead the Rams in touches after an excellent rookie season out of Vanderbilt and will be a workhorse, but Cunningham and Mason should see some time on the ball.
In the Rams preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, Mason struggled in pass protection by allowing sacks to blitzes from Sam Barrington and rookie standout safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jim Thomas, these critical lapses unsurprisingly drew some criticism from Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, who stated that Mason needs to improve his pass pro.
Fisher said, “Yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest challenges for the position. To learn how to play without the football. Guys have run skills, can carry the ball and run, and do those kind of things. But it’s playing without the football. It’s protection. Tre needs to keep working on it.”
Per Fisher, Mason has struggled with recognition and execution, and it isn’t surprising to hear that he’s struggling mightily with a phase of the game that most young backs have a difficult time getting a handle on. Mason lacks much experience in this department, as he wasn’t asked to block- let alone recognize blitzing safeties and linebackers- at Auburn. This puts him behind the curve on passing downs to Cunningham, and Mason isn’t a legit fantasy option and is not a lock for triple-digit carries.
That said, he’s a very good rusher and was once expected to steal carries from Stacy, so he’s still someone to watch this season and should get a nice diet of carries in the future. He’s making improvements with experience, but more will be needed if he wants to secure reps as the third-down back over Cunningham and add a few more carries that way (his rushing is his calling card).