The past two preseasons, the Los Angeles Rams have identified talented running backs on their roster which received large workloads in preparation for the regular season.
Dating back to 2017, that player was undrafted free agent Justin Davis from USC. Davis received 36 rushing attempts for 147 rushing yards (4.1 yards per carry). He chipped in another 10 receptions for 84 receiving yards.
Then, in 2018, the Rams intended to get plenty of work for sixth-round draft pick from Tennessee, John Kelly. Kelly only played in three preseason games in 2018, though he really racked up the stats with 46 rushing attempts for 197 rushing yards (4.3 yards per carry) and three rushing touchdowns, chipping in another six receptions for 18 yards.
Both Davis and Kelly had spurts of highly impressive play in their respective preseason debuts. The trend should continue tonight — and for two out of the three remaining preseason games — for third-round pick RB Darrell Henderson.
Keeping Hendo healthy and under wraps (in terms of vanilla play calling) is completely understandable, and maybe the way to go, honestly. I look at the opposite side of the spectrum though, and think a decent workload for the rook would be greatly beneficial. Now, that doesn’t mean pounding him into the ground, because the coaching staff surely has an interesting plan and role in place for Hendo when it comes to the regular season. Though, I would like to see the opportunity for him to get loose, maybe break a run or catch here or there, and just in general, get used to the Rams’ playbook and acclimated to the pro game.
In terms of usage, it’ll obviously be kept simple regardless of who’s in the game. A few outside zone runs, maybe a pitch or toss to get Hendo to the edge, and potentially even a swing pass or screen to allow him a chance to get the ball in space where he’s known to be able to break a long one.
Ideally, the workload wouldn’t be incredibly drastic as keeping Hendo healthy for the regular season should be the main priority, as well as deciphering which one of Davis or Kelly (or neither) should make the 53-man roster. A sample size between 8-12 touches would be ideal, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see less, truthfully.