- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As the St. Louis Rams prepare to enter their third training camp under coach Jeff Fisher and staff, much will hinge on the ability of the team's many young players to turn potential into production. In this final week before camp officially begins, we take a look at some players who must take the next step either to preserve their jobs, help the team reach its first winning record since 2003 or, to the team's preference, both.
We continue this week-long series with running back Isaiah Pead.
What he's done: After the Rams used the third of three 2012 second-round picks on him, much was expected of Pead. In his first year, he was supposed to handle the primary backup duties to Steven Jackson and then entered 2013 with a shot at the starting job after Jackson moved on to Atlanta. Pead was unable to secure either of those jobs and by the end of last season had settled into a role that was almost exclusive to special teams. In two years, Pead has 17 carries for 75 yards and 14 catches for 94 yards. He's also done some kick return work but has mostly worked on coverage units. Fumbling issues combined with a suspension to open the 2013 season haven't helped his cause.
Why he must do more: Much like receiver Brian Quick, the Rams have high hopes for this second-round skill position player. But myriad things have kept Pead from ascending to a more prominent role. In just two seasons, Pead has been surpassed by running backs with lesser draft status including Daryl Richardson and Zac Stacy. Even undrafted rookie Benny Cunningham handled a bigger role in 2013 and the Rams drafted Tre Mason in the third round this year. Pead's long term future in St. Louis will likely hinge on his ability to finally produce in 2014.
Where he fits: In the spring, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer indicated that he'd like to see competition develop at running back, but it remains to be seen whether that competition is legitimate or based on coach speak. Pead even took some repetitions with the first-team offense during organized team activities. It's a big leap from there to more work in the offense, however, and it's probably not realistic to expect Pead to make enough of a leap to steal carries from Stacy, Cunningham and Mason. A more plausible scenario would see Pead continue to contribute on special teams and develop into a potential third-down back who can become something of a specialist catching balls out of the backfield and helping with blitz pickup.