Cam Akers was on the field for 52 snaps in the Rams’ 38-28 win over the Cardinals on Sunday, more than double his previous career-high. Van Jefferson played in 40 snaps against Arizona, seven more than his previous best as a rookie with LA this season. It seems as though for the first time since Week 1 — when those two aforementioned “previous career-highs” were established — Sean McVay is ready to lean on his two 2020 second round picks.
Akers had 21 carries for 72 yards, plus 22 on a lone reception. That meant that McVay was able to trust Akers on 30 offensive plays this week in which the ball did not go to his rookie running back. Those 30 passing snaps alone were more than any single game total that Akers has had all season long.
In response, Jared Goff had one of his best and most efficient games since September.
That included five targets and four receptions for Jefferson, whose previous career-highs were five target and four receptions against the Eagles in Week 2. Jefferson hasn’t had a game with more than 18 snaps in any game since that win in Philadelphia and he only played in four snaps over the last two weeks. But he got 40 against the Cardinals, albeit only totaling 27 yards.
Combining those two efforts with that of safety Jordan Fuller, a non-surprise impact player for the Rams by this point, and it’s clear that McVay is starting to like what this 2020 rookie class is able to give him. At least, compared to their counterparts at this moment in the season.
With Akers as his lead back, Fuller as one of his top young defensive players and Jefferson potentially moving ahead of Josh Reynolds in snaps and targets, that gives LA three players to count on from the rookie class headed into the home stretch. Then there is third round linebacker Terrell Lewis, who has missed the last two games with a knee situation but who was showing promise prior to yet another injury concern.
That’s even more of a relief considering what recent draft classes will be expected to contribute moving forward: Darrell Henderson and Greg Gaines are the healthiest and most productive players from the 2019 class. Joe Noteboom and Sebastian Joseph-Day are the top representatives of the 2018 class until Micah Kiser returns from injured reserve.
It will be important for some of these young players to step up next week and next year, when several key Rams will become free agents. We’re not sure what the future will bring for any of them, but it seems like McVay is becoming more comfortable with using them in the present.