The Los Angeles Rams looked improved on both sides of the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday night, but the running backs stood out and were able to finally find some breathing room and break a few runs off over the weekend. Rookie seventh round pick Jake Funk got the start and made the most of his opportunities, finishing the game with 56 yards rushing on seven carries.
The reality of LA’s situation just might be that all three running backs have a niche in the offense, leading coach Sean McVay to go to a running-back-by-committee similar to the beginning of last year that featured Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, and Malcom Brown.
Though Funk had the most yards on the ground, Xavier Jones showed elusiveness on his attempts, as well as his lethality as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Jones finished with 29 yards on seven carries and added one reception for 10 yards; if it were not for a penalty-heavy game from the Rams, both running backs could have had even better stats.
Funk is a strong runner that can be used up the middle on short down and red zone situations, while Jones’ elusiveness and receiving skillset can be used as a change of pace back that complements Henderson’s game and exploit mismatches on the defense. Funk appeared to be the better blocker of the night as well and he could possibly carve himself a role on passing situations.
Raymond Calais was also moving in the right direction and had some action in the third quarter. Unfortunately he did not make it out of the game healthy and suffered a mid-foot fracture that will take four to six months to recover. Though Tutu Atwell looks like the favorite for punt return duties, Calais was making a case for the role on special teams with an impressive punt against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first preseason game.
The final preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Saturday night may be the final piece needed to figure the puzzle that is the Rams backfield. Both Funk and Jones looked good against the Raiders and they both have one more preseason opportunity to carve a role for themselves in LA’s offense.
How much they play in the final preseason game will be determined by how they perform in this week’s practices. In fact, they may be making a case for McVay to keep them on the bench in the final game, rather than risking them in the game.