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Rams running back NextGen analysis, Week 1 vs Dallas Cowboys

Let’s look at how each running back was utilized in the backfield, and where they saw success

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams got the ‘dub’ and you don’t have to look at the advanced box score to see how they got it done. Malcolm Brown scored two touchdowns and led the team with 79 yards on 18 carries.

Rookie running back Cam Akers was given 14 carries and he recorded 39 yards while Darrell Henderson toted the rock just three times for six yards.

You don’t have to see the advanced box score to see how they won, like I said, as the team’s only offensive touchdowns came by the legs of Brown, but I did. I hit the AWS suite of NextGen Stats data to take an advanced look at just how the Rams running backs got it done.

First things first — we take a look for you fantasy players — just how many snaps each running back received. It’s one thing to look at total carries, it’s another to know just how many snaps they were each on the field.

Malcolm Brown — 44 snaps; 21 passing snaps, 18 rushing snaps, 3 pass protection snaps, 2 run blocking snaps
Cam Akers — 24 snaps; 14 rushing snaps, 10 passing snaps
Darrell Henderson — 5 snaps; 3 rushing snaps, 1 passing snap, 1 run blocking snap

Next thing, we hit the grade sheet, thanks to those relatively wonky running back grades from PFF.

Brown: 59.7 overall
Akers: 56.8 overall
Henderson: 64.6 overall

Now, those need some context, and it’s important to note that running back grades are easily the analytics company’s most-scrutinized grades, and are independent of blocking, play call or scheme, and just simply grade what the running back does on that play. Breaks a tackle, good grade. Gets tackled behind line of scrimmage, or for a ‘loss,’ then it’s a negative. We won’t go too far into that.

Snaps and grades are done, those are the basis of the first look. Then it gets to the nitty gritty.

Of Akers’ 14 carries, six of them were against stacked boxes (stacked boxes are plays where at the snap of the ball, the defense has eight or more defenders within eight yards of the line of scrimmage, inside the offense’s latest in-line blocker). Akers’ 42.86% of his carries against stacked boxes was the second-highest percentage among all running backs in Week 1 (prior to the Monday Night Football duo).

For that reason, Akers’ successful rookie debut is taken with a grain of salt. He had the league’s third-lowest efficiency, according to NextGen Stats’ rushing efficiency metric. That calculates how much a running back takes behind the line of scrimmage and the total distance traveled, meaning the lower the number it produces, the more ‘north-south’ a runner was, meaning straight forward. For contract, Brown’s 3.72 efficiency score was the NFL’s ninth-lowest (or ninth-best), compared to Akers’ 5.35.

On average, Akers spent 2.82 seconds behind the line of scrimmage on his carries and in doing so, returned a -23 yards compared to the expected rushing totals on his attempts.

For Brown, it should be no surprise that he saw great success when rushing behind future Hall of Famer Andrew Whitworth on the left. But Brown gained 46 yards on nine carries when rushing wide right.

Independently, the running backs broke five total tackles and gained 78 of their combined yards after contact. Due to the stacked boxes he ran against, Akers actually broke five tackles compared to Brown’s three.

Not the best debut for Akers but it also makes a bit of sense seeing that nearly half of his carries came against eight or more defenders in the box he was attempting to run into.

A win’s a win, and this one is kudos to Mr. Brown.

Find this information insightful and potentially useful? Please let me know below, and I’d be happy to pop in weekly with this information throughout the 2020 season.