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Rams still looking for answer at runnning back

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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the St. Louis Rams' offense since Steven Jackson left as a free agent in March is, how will the team's running back rotation shake out?

And there still is no definitive answer.

Daryl Richardson, a surprise performer as a seventh-round pick in 2012, entered training camp as the No. 1 back and started Thursday night against Cleveland.

Still, it's highly possible several other backs will be used in different roles from a competitive group that includes Isaiah Pead (second-round pick in 2012), Zac Stacy (fifth-round choice this year) as well as Terrance Ganaway and rookie free agent Ben Cunningham.

"I think Daryl comes back as our starter because he played significantly more last year than anybody," said head coach Jeff Fisher. "And so Isaiah is working himself up and competing with Daryl. And you've got the rest of the guys that are just going to battle it out, and we haven't ruled anybody out from that matter. But we're going to try to get as many carries as we can."

Thursday night, in a 27-19 loss to Cleveland, Richardson carried four times for 24 yards with a long of 12. Pead was 3-for-18 with a long of 11, Stacy was 7-for-23 with a long of seven and Cunningham was 5-for-20 with a long of eight.

Ganaway did not dress with what is believed to be a leg injury suffered in practice Tuesday. Pead won't play in the season opener because of a substance-abuse suspension. He also fumbled at the Cleveland 26-yard line Thursday night.

"I want to be the guy at the beginning and at the end," Richardson told ESPN.com. "I am out here working every day, on my hands especially. Pass protection is a must. You have got to protect (quarterback) Sam (Bradford). That's the main focus on who will go on the field."

Stacy earned kudos from coaches and Bradford for his ability to pick up the blitz, and he did that on a play Thursday.

Pead just wants a chance after a disappointing rookie season and the looming suspension.

"I can't call it right now, I can't really tell," he said to ESPN.com. "All I can focus on is the next play and trying not to make a mistake on it or fixing it if I've currently made a mistake on it. That's really the mindset that all of us as vets have taken, not really paying attention to how things are going to play out, but letting them play out."

Coincidentally, it was Richardson who talked about ball security prior to Thursday's game, given that he lost two of three fumbles last season.

"You have got to hold on to that ball," Richardson said. "Holding on to the ball can be the thing that will make you or break you."

Pead is probably wondering about that now, but Fisher was pleased with how Pead bounced back after the fumble.

"I think he shook it off and he ran well," Fisher said. "Considering the opportunities that he had, he made plays. He hit the trap good, he found daylight slightly off the point of attack on a trap, which is a very instinctive move for a young runner, which is good to see."

Fisher said the various opportunities must be viewed in perspective.

"Out of fairness to them, you want them all to have an opportunity to run behind the first line, because that's a fair evaluation -- and run against good opponents," he said. "So, we're going to have to work that out the best we can."

Noting the play of Stacy and Cunningham, Fisher said, "They got carries and they ran hard. And we're going to continue to give them carries. As I said, our hope is to try to get them some carries behind the starting offensive line over the next couple weeks to fairly evaluate them."
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