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Sean McVay: Cam Akers on track to play Sunday vs Football Team

The Rams need to get more broken and forced missed tackle from their running backs

Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The LA Rams had a running back competition in training camp, and even if Sean McVay had always planned to use all three of his expected options between Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown, there would eventually have to be a desirable pecking order. Few have expected Brown to come out as the number one option but he’s leading the team in carries and snaps through four games.

However, it seemed evident on the first drive of Week 2 that Akers would not be held back just because he is a rookie who didn’t get a preseason and after missing the last 11 quarters since that opening series, Akers looks ready to return against Washington Football Team on Sunday. And there’s reason to believe he will get top pecking order type snaps.

In Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys, Akers got 14 carries on only 24 snaps. McVay gave the first two carries of the game to Akers, then deferred to Brown on the final two of the drive, including a one-yard touchdown.

Sidenote: If you think “top pecking order snaps” has something to do with fantasy football, not to me it doesn’t.

Akers then got the first two carries of the following drive, then a carry off left tackle on 2nd and 6 at the Dallas 23. He also caught a pass on the drive, his only target of the season so far. The drive ended in Sam Sloman missing a 29-yard field goal, an eerie reminder of another three-way training camp competition that may not be over yet.

McVay didn’t use Akers on the Rams next drive, but on the series after that one he gave Akers a carry on three of the first four plays, setting up another field goal attempt. On the first drive of the second half, Akers had three carries for six yards.

In the fourth quarter, Akers did have two carries for eight yards, but the Rams went to Malcolm Brown on four of five plays on their final drive. A drive that fell one yard shy of a first down that could have ended the game, but instead they gave Dak Prescott one more chance.

Of course, Henderson had missed most of the last two or three weeks with a hamstring injury prior to the game and was limited to a handful of snaps. Having all three running backs available at near 100-percent is something that only occurred at the start of Week 2. In that case, Akers still got the first three carries of the game and picked up 13 yards on the opening series.

What can we surmise from his limited playing time so far?

When Akers is in the game, there’s been a high probability that the play call is run. On 27 snaps, he has 17 rushing attempts. Add in one target and 66-percent of the plays Akers is in on have resulted in a Cam Akers touch.

He’s not a goal line or short yardage option so far. That would be Brown, who also has 12 targets and has thus far been more productive in that area than Henderson. Akers has yet to prove that he’ll be trusted often with targets from Jared Goff this season.

He’s been McVay’s favored back on the opening series of a half. With a little bit of a script, it seems like McVay prefers to write stories that involve his rookie second round pick out of Florida State who is known for breaking tackles, something that LA has not had many of with Brown and Henderson.

He’s not had many opportunities and he could struggle. Akers has carried the ball 17 times and his longest gain is six yards. However, he averaged 0.9 yards before contact, meaning his offensive line was losing to the defensive line more often than not when he got the ball. Perhaps teams are too aware of who is getting the ball when Akers is in the game. Can he pass block? Can he be a threat in the passing game? Does he know the playbook as well as the other two backs?

It’s hard to expect anything of Akers at this point except for maybe one thing: the Rams drafted him to play. That was obvious in Week 1 and Week 2 and I expect that McVay will not be afraid to utilize Akers in every opportunity he seems him fit for and we don’t know yet what situations those are right now. I think all three backs will see some time, but I’d look for Akers early.