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How will Rams distribute running back carries against 49ers?

Without Cam Akers, how does L.A.’s backfield shake out?

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The post-Todd Gurley injury carousel at running back continues to churn this week for the Los Angeles Rams. Cam Akers is out. Kyren Williams has returned to practice. And there’s nobody standing in between Darrell Henderson and his final opportunity to be a starting running back for the Rams.

An opportunity that’s coming in perhaps the most crucial game of L.A.’s season.

Almost a month ago, Henderson out-snapped Akers 44 to 28 in a 24-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The next week, Henderson had 37 snaps to Akers’ 20, but Akers had 13 carries compared to zero for Henderson. It appears that will be Cam Akers’ final game with the Rams.

Against the Carolina Panthers two weeks ago, Henderson had 12 carries for 43 yards and a touchdown after Sean McVay conceded that he’s finished trying to turn Akers into the running back of the future. Backup Malcolm Brown, back for his second stint with the Rams, had seven carries for 15 yards in that 24-10 victory. Now after a bye week, rookie Kyren Williams is back at practice and hoping to contribute after missing so much time with a broken foot.

Williams is at the start of a 21-day window to be activated to the 53-man roster. For this week’s game against the 49ers, it appears that Henderson and Brown could be L.A.’s two options, with Ronnie Rivers a candidate to be activated from the practice squad. Rivers played three snaps and had a 14-yard catch against the Panthers.

Henderson’s first career game with more than two snaps came against the 49ers in Week 6 of the 2019 season. He had six carries for 39 yards and a nine-yard reception in that contest. The next year, Henderson had 14 carries for 88 yards in the first meeting and 10 carries for 19 yards in the next. In 2021, Henderson had five carries for 31 yards and four catches for 10 yards in a 31-10 loss to San Francisco and he missed the season finale.

Henderson had seven carries for 27 yards in this most recent meeting against the 49ers. How will he perform in Week 8?

The ongoing theme for most Rams fans with regards to McVay and Henderson is that at least Henderson has avoided the dog house, unlike Akers. That Henderson’s opportunities only come up after something has gone awry with the starter. That is once again the case. Because the team is trying to trade Akers and reportedly wanted Christian McCaffrey, we can safely assume that another transaction is coming.

But probably not before Sunday. Look for Henderson to get most of the reps behind a patchwork offensive line, but Brown could be on his tail. Brown has seen his snaps go up from two to eight to 16 in each successive appearance this season. He could cut into those snaps and continue to cut into rushing attempts. The 49ers are second in the NFL in yards per carry allowed and it could fall back onto Cooper Kupp to lead the Rams to the end zone this week.

Henderson and Brown might be neck and neck in attempts and Rivers seems a fair bet to play mostly on special teams. The Rams must move through the air.