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Rams position battles: Starting running back

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And who is it?

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of the 2013-2014 era, the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams have had quite the interesting streak of consistency at running back. If you allowed me to ignore those two seasons, then I could tell you that since Marshall Faulk in 1999, the Rams have only had three different players lead the team in rushing.

Faulk from 1999 to 2004.

Steven Jackson from 2005 to 2012.

Todd Gurley from 2015 to 2019.

The only issue of course being Tre Mason and Zac Stacy working their way in there somehow.

But even still, that’s a remarkably low number of names to lead a team in rushing over a 20-year period. The next in line is still up in the air but Cam Akers is the frontrunner for quite a few reasons to become Gurley’s successor and to carry that torch. I don’t expect Darrell Henderson to simply allow that to happen without a fight however.

When the Rams released Gurley in March, it probably gave Henderson some hope that the door was wide open for him to become the next starter. He didn’t wrestle away as many carries from Gurley as the team had hoped, and even fell behind Malcolm Brown, but did do about as well as Gurley when he did play. For what that was worth. As long as Sean McVay and Les Snead don’t use one of their first two picks on a running back, Henderson would seem the favorite to start.

McVay’s message seems to be that the Rams were not keen on that idea after having seen Henderson for a year.

By drafting Akers with the 52nd overall pick, their first of the class, LA made it clear that not only do they find the running back position to still be valuable, but that the tackle-breaking Akers was the right person for the job. A year ago they drafted Henderson and hedged their bets of any rumors that they were concerned about Gurley by saying that he was only a “complement” back, is that going to be the real best fit for him behind Akers?

Is it possible that Henderson turned out to be such a poor fit that he would struggle to get ahead of Brown as the number two option again? Sure. Look at how quickly Royce Freeman — picked one year earlier in nearly the exact same draft position — has fallen out of favor with the Denver Broncos. But then you can see Kenyan Drake — picked three years earlier, also in almost the same draft spot — and he struggled early and then kept improving.

All roads are open.

Akers is definitely the plan moving forward, Henderson will get every opportunity to complement him. John Kelly, James Gilbert, and Xavier Jones compete with Brown for depth.