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Rams found their 2021 starting running back in Cam Akers

Needing a punch in the second half of the year, Sean McVay finally turned to his top pick

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers Appleton Post-Crescent-USA TODAY NETWORK

No player on the Rams offense in 2020 inspired more hope in the second half than rookie running back Cam Akers.

Despite moderately good production and a high DVOA for Darrell Henderson in the first quarter of the season, LA’s need for an explosive running back and a powerful weapon on offense was obvious as the season went on. Akers dealt with an injury beginning in Week 2 and then received only four snaps in Weeks 6-7.

Sean McVay gave Akers 20 snaps in a Week 8 loss to the Dolphins, increasing his reps, but he only gained 88 yards on 24 carries over a three-game stretch. Finally, Akers broke out for 84 yards on nine attempts against the 49ers in Week 12, including 61 yards on the final play of the third quarter.

Having few places to turn to spark an offense that hadn’t scored 30 since Week 5, McVay nearly tripled Akers’ snaps in Week 13 and the Rams beat the Cardinals 38-28.

Akers missed Week 16’s loss to the Seahawks, but over his final four games of the year, he gained 340 yards on 86 carries. That included a 21-carry, 34-yard effort against Arizona in Week 17, but that was a game started by John Wolford. No offense to Wolford, but that style of offense didn’t mesh well for Akers’ abilities.

We should expect McVay to work around Akers’ abilities much more often next season and that should also play into who McVay decides to start at quarterback.

Akers then had 131 yards in a playoff win over Seattle and finished his season with 90 yards on 18 carries against the Packers. Adding in his postseason, Akers had 561 rushing yards on 132 carries in his last six games.

Jonathan Taylor led all rookies with 1,169 rushing yards in 15 games and that seems like a fair “idea” of what Cam Akers could do with a full season as the Rams starting running back. Taylor added 36 receptions for 299 yards, which is also about the production that could be expected from Akers, who had 11 catches for 123 yards despite few opportunities to receive.

Akers is not the same as Todd Gurley and I wouldn’t put the pressure on him to become an “MVP type” running back like Gurley was for LA, but in a similar fashion he seems ready to take over as the Rams’ most important player on offense.

He inspired hope in the middle of his rookie campaign. He can now extend that hope all the way from today to Week 1 of the next season.