Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers suffered a torn Achilles this week and is expected to miss the entirety of the 2021 NFL season. Akers, a 2020 second round pick from Florida State, had a strong finish last season and figured to be a pivotal piece of the 2021 Rams offense.
Replacing Akers’ expected production will not be an easy task. Third-year rusher Darrell Henderson is expected to take over the starting role for Los Angeles, but there is certainly room for other currently-rostered players to carve out roles on the offense. There are two particular candidates that may be in-line for notable promotions this fall.
The lack of preseason in 2020 was detrimental to late-round rookies and players on the backend of NFL rosters. Raymond Calais, a seventh round draft choice last season by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, belongs in this group, as his only meaningful snaps with Los Angeles were on special teams in the regular season. There is not a significant amount of NFL game film for Calais at the running back position, which makes it difficult to project what his role may become for the Rams.
ULL RB Raymond Calais keeps flashing his speed at the NFLPA Bowl. This 101-yard KR TD will catch scouts attention. pic.twitter.com/gN8Vz5Fhqr— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) January 19, 2020
Listed at 5’9, 180 pounds, it is a safe bet that Raymond Calais’ ceiling in the NFL is as a change-of-pace runner or complementary piece. A player with this frame will likely have durability issues and be unable to sustain the workload of a lead back over the course of his career. At the very least, he figures to compete as a kick return specialist in 2021.
Calais should have a reasonable opportunity to earn a role within the running back rotation as an elusive runner and speedster. At the height of the Rams offensive production under Sean McVay, LA was able to integrate the running backs into the pass game and spring runners into the open field on screen plays. McVay should be able to create favorable matchups for Calais schematically in order to take advantage of his unique skillset.
The Rams selected Jake Funk of Maryland in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL draft with the 233rd overall selection. Funk’s college football career was unfortunately defined by two major ACL injuries, though he was able to stand out in his limited availability. While injuries limited opportunities for him to play in college, they may have paved the path for the rookie to carve out a significant role in his first NFL campaign.
Jake Funk takes it in for the Terps' first touchdown of the season.— Mike Touma (@miketouma41) October 30, 2020
Tagovailoa now gets the monkey off his back with his first touchdown pass under center for Maryland. pic.twitter.com/qdhFZC8wGY
Initially expected to be defined to a special teams role in 2021, Jake Funk is a versatile runner that can factor into both the run and pass game. During the running back’s senior season at Maryland, the former Terrapin had 60 rushes for 516 yards as well as 10 receptions for 68 yards over the span of five games. These numbers aren’t overly impressive, but they indicate that Funk is willing to serve in a limited role and contribute to the multiple facets of an offense.
Los Angeles is expected to start the season with Darrell Henderson as the lead back, which likely means Funk’s opportunities, if any, could be limited to 5-10 offensive snaps per game. Demonstrating an ability to be a serviceable runner and receiver will help make the most of his opportunities and potentially push for more playing time.
For now, the Rams depth chart appears to be Henderson, then Xavier Jones, but given the lack of experience for all of LA’s running backs, this is a wide open competition. One that Calais and Funk are squarely in the middle of with training camp around the corner.