Warning: At some point during this preview, a doomsday scenario will be entertained in which Malcolm Brown would be named a starter. This would come as a result of an injury to a player I will not name out of fear. But for clarity, this unnamed player is the reigning Offensive Player of the Year, likes jumping over grown-ass men, and has one surgically reconstructed knee. Reader discretion is advised.
In Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff’s second preseason game of his NFL career, he found fellow backup Malcolm Brown for a 10-yard touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016. This was Goff’s first time finding the end zone in the NFL and only the second time for Brown, a 2015 undrafted free agent out of Texas.
Since then, Goff has gone on to become the starter that Ram fans had been expecting him to be, and Brown remains a secondary option in the backfield. Brown spent that 2016 campaign as the third option behind Todd Gurley and Benny Cunningham. After Cunningham left for Chicago in the offseason, Brown found himself in competition with fellow UDFA Justin Davis for the primary backup job while the newly-acquired Lance Dunbar was on the physically unable to perform list. Both Brown and Davis made the 53-man roster, though it was Brown who emerged as the number two back behind Gurley.
Of course, backing up Gurley in 2017 was a pretty easy gig as Gurley logged 343 touches to Brown’s 72. Brown finished 2017 with 246 on 63 carries and added 9 catches for 53 yards. Most of his production came in Week 17, when a majority of the starters were benched in a meaningless game against the San Francisco 49ers. In that game, Brown had 18 total touches for 61 yards.
With the Dunbar experiment removed, Brown finds himself competing with Davis and John Kelly, a sixth-round pick with the 176th overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Tennessee. Kelly’s presence seems to be a bigger immediate threat to Davis, though it’s very believable that Kelly nabs the backup job from Brown at some point.
When the Rams head to Oakland to play the Raiders on Monday Night Football in Week 1, I expect the running back depth chart to read “Gurley-Brown-Kelly.” A lot can change over the course of a few weeks, though.
An expanded workload for Brown (I’m not specifying HOW this would occur, but let it be known I’m lighting a candle under my shrine for number 30) could mean trouble for the Rams’ high-octane offense. During his infrequent snaps last season, Brown was seldom an option because of the dangerous passing attack. But if opposing defenses can key on the pass and dare the Rams to run, Brown doesn’t offer the skills to take advantage. I’d sooner expect the Rams to go to Kelly or look to free agency if the unthinkable happens.
Chance of Making the Final Roster (9.5/10)
Brown’s spot on the roster is almost completely secure. He’ll likely see a sizable workload during the preseason to protect Gurley. Davis remains the biggest threat to Brown’s spot, but injury history and fumble problems will likely lead to Davis being cut after the final preseason game in the cutdowns to the 53-man roster.