It didn't come as much of a surprise, but the St. Louis Rams did make it official following Monday's practice at Rams Park in Earth City, when head coach Jeff Fisher announced that second-year man Daryl Richardson would be the club's starting running back when the regular season begins on September 8.
The Rams will be hosting the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome that day, and it will be the first game for the club since three-time Pro Bowler and eight-time 1,000-yard rusher Steven Jackson left to join the Atlanta Falcons this offseason.
“From a starting standpoint, yeah, Daryl would probably take the first snap against Arizona,” Fisher said. “But as far as who’s gonna come in (in reserve), we still have some evaluating to do.”
Most observers figured there were probably only two guys with a legitimate shot at winning the job -- Richardson and fellow second-year player Isaiah Pead.
But Richardson was Jackson's primary backup last year, and had a pretty good season, rushing for 475 yards on 98 carries (a 4.8 yards/carry average) last year, after coming to the Rams in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Division II Abilene Christian University.
“I’m not really surprised,” Richardson said. “This is what I worked for. You know, I’m out here working every day.”
Pead was selected in the second round by the Rams last year, after being named MVP of the Senior Bowl, following his final year at the University of Cincinnati.
But a lack of productivity when his number was called throughout training camp and the 2012 preseason games, and a proclivity for fumbling the ball (in practice and in preseason games) got Pead dropped down to No. 3 on the depth chart rather quickly.
And he was never able to recover.
This summer, Richardson has continued to shine, while Pead fumbled on his first carry in the Rams game against the Cleveland Browns, then had a lackluster night last Saturday against the Green Bay Packers.
“It felt good,” Pead said. “But it’s just football. The coach called for me to be out there, and I’m willing to take the opportunity. So I just tried to keep my team in it and be the spark that I can be and limit my mistakes.”
The third game of the preseason is usually the one that teams will use as their final dress rehearsal for the regular season.
Most teams sit their starters in the final preseason game to hopefully avoid anyone getting hurt before the "real" season begins.
If St. Louis follows that philosophy, then it seems likely that Richardson would play a lot this week when the Rams go on the road to play the Denver Broncos.
Then, it will be his job to fill the shoes of the man who moved on as the Rams' franchise all-time leading rusher.
"No pressure," Richardson said with a grin.
2013 ST. LOUIS RAMS SCHEDULE
August 8 -- at Cleveland .............. L, 19-27
August 17 -- vs. Green Bay ......... L, 19-7
August 24 -- at Denver ............... 7 p.m.
August 29 -- vs. Baltimore ......... 7 p.m.
September 8 -- vs. Arizona ......... 3:25 p.m.
September 15 -- at Atlanta .......... noon
September 22 -- at Dallas ............ noon
September 26 -- vs San Francisco ... 7:25 p.m.
October 6 -- vs. Jacksonville ...... noon
October 13 -- at Houston ............ noon
October 20 -- at Carolina ............ noon
October 28 -- vs. Seattle ............. 7:30 p.m.
November 3 -- vs. Tennessee ........ noon
November 10 -- at Indianapolis ..... noon
November 24 -- vs. Chicago ......... noon
December 1 -- at San Francisco ..... 3:25 p.m.
December 8 -- at Arizona ............. 3:25 p.m.
December 15 -- vs. New Orleans ..... noon
December 22 -- vs. Tampa Bay .... noon
December 29 -- at Seattle ............. 3:25 p.m.