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What is Sony Michel’s role in LA Rams’ offense as playoffs near?

With Henderson out for the regular season and a possible Akers return, what will Los Angeles do with Michel?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

During the Los Angeles Rams’ 30-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, running back Sony Michel rushed for a season-high 137 yards on 27 carries. Sunday’s game marked the second time Michel has rushed over the century mark since joining the team before the regular season. The fourth-year back has led the charge, surpassing 90 yards in three of LA’s past four games. Michel has scored two of his three rushing touchdowns within this span, including this Twister-esque trip to the pylon against the Vikings.

Sony’s recent stretch has been impressive for a number of reasons. For one, can you tell me who has been the NFL’s leading rusher during the month of December? If you answered Jonathan Taylor, you would be off by two flippin’ yards (423-421). This may not give anyone consolation, but I would’ve put my entire life savings on the answer being Taylor as well. It’s not just that stat which has been most impressive about Michel’s hot streak. The Rams have dealt with a lot of adversity over the last couple games, to put it mildly. Michel refused to let it get him down, instead deciding to truck it onto the turf as one fan observes:

I wholeheartedly agree, this can’t be overlooked, especially when Michel started out as simply a rotational player behind Henderson. He’s come a long way from his one carry for two yards in the season opener against the Chicago Bears, that’s for darn sure. It wasn’t unusual considering Sony was finding his way in McVay’s offense. Prior to these last four games, Michel had double-digit carries in three of his first 11 games with Los Angeles. During the team’s four-game winning streak, the back has been given an average of 22 carries. Overall, fantastic for someone closing in on the first 1K rushing season of his career.

Now the question becomes, which running back on LA’s roster should the Rams start when the playoffs arrive? The decision might’ve been made a whole lot easier for McVay given the news of Darrell Henderson heading to Injured Reserve with an MCL injury. Henderson will be out 3-5 weeks with the injury, ensuring he will be out for the rest of the regular season, and possibly the Rams postseason games no matter how far they’ll advance.

To make a “tough” decision even more challenging, Cam Akers is expected to return Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Akers suffered a right Achilles injury back in July which was feared to be season-ending. He was activated last week and even practiced with the team last Friday in a workout at SoFi Stadium. In 2020, Cam rushed for 625 yards as a rookie, and Sean McVay knows he has to be smart with Akers no matter how tempting it’ll be to run him wild.

“You still want to be really smart with him,” McVay said via Los Angeles Times. “But there is a possibility he plays this week. He looked really good last week in practice.”

While I have never been a head coach, except for in Madden, I believe the answer for who to continue starting is easy. Los Angeles should stick with Michel given that he’s riding the hot hand. Sony was played a major role in LA’s current four-game run, so why interfere with the offensive chemistry when it’s evident that it’s working? Plus, Michel has plenty of postseason experience during his time with the New England Patriots. Just look at the numbers on his playoff resume and tell me that he doesn’t deserve a chance to start.

Pro Football Reference

Sony’s rookie season in 2018 was an eternity ago in NFL years, but he was a big reason New England won the Super Bowl. Michel produces when the lights are brightest, so he deserves the opportunity to extend his hot stretch into the postseason. Henderson will most likely be a non-factor come playoff time, and that’s a shame since he was having such a promising campaign. If McVay plays his hand wisely, Akers should be used albeit slowly as he makes his long-awaited return. As of this time, there’s no running back on the Rams’ roster that deserves more chances than Michel. Who knows, maybe he’ll help carry another team on his back en route to another ring in February.