We continue our look at the LA Rams’ current depth charts by examining the latest news at running back. Will Sean McVay put another “Todd Gurley” in the driver’s seat, or are the Rams destined for a competition to be in a committee?
2022 L.A. Rams Running Backs
Not here: Sony Michel
Cam Akers - 5’11, 212 lbs, born 6/22/1999
Behind closed doors, would Les Snead admit regret with selecting running backs on day two of the 2019 and 2020 NFL drafts? Or do the Rams feel that with momentum starting to build towards a full commitment to Cam Akers in 2022, that the timing is now perfect for the former Florida State running back to show he was a steal at pick 52?
In either case, time is running out for Akers to provide value while on his rookie contract as we’re already halfway through the life of the deal.
Akers dealt with some injuries during his first year in the league and didn’t take over for Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown as the full-time back until December of that season. When he did take over, Akers was excellent: 171 rushing yards in a win over the Patriots in Week 14, and 131 rushing yards in a wild card win over the Seahawks in the playoffs.
But then Akers tore his Achilles just before training camp got going last year. His return was a minor football miracle, but the result was just 72 carries for 175 yards (2.5 YPC) when he was back on the field for Week 18 and four playoff games.
It’s not that I am ignoring what Akers had to go through just to get on the field again or that “shaking off the rust” is surprising, it’s merely a fact that we don’t know to what degree Akers will ever be “fully back” until we see him out there again for a string of regular season games in 2022. In the Super Bowl, Cam Akers had 13 carries for only 21 yards with three receptions for 14 yards.
The Rams have two more seasons of Akers on a rookie contract and then must decide if he’s worth keeping around on a new deal. Through the first two seasons, L.A.’s only seen 150 carries for 628 yards and two touchdowns over 14 games. The expectations for next season would presumably be that he doubles that yardage production, but a complementary role in a committee may be more realistic.
Will Cam Akers rush for over 1,000 yards in 2022?
This poll is closed
Darrell Henderson - 5’8, 208 lbs, born 8/19/1997
Henderson’s second season in the NFL (138 carries, 624 yards, five touchdowns) was similar to Akers’ first year in the NFL, and Henderson’s third year (149/688/5) was practically a repeat. But the Rams were hoping for more when they made Henderson the 70th overall pick in 2019 and now he’s only got one year until he’s a free agent.
Like Akers, Henderson has dealt with a myriad of injuries throughout his NFL career. He’s just never had the one devastating injury like an Achilles or an ACL.
But it has been difficult to expect Henderson to handle a full-time role because every time the opportunity arises, the result has too often been underwhelming. Akers is known to pop off for those massive gains and big games, but Henderson’s only career game with more than 90 rushing yards was September 27, 2020 against the Bills.
He’s had over 20 starts with the Rams since then.
Henderson as a complementary piece makes sense, but this could be his last opportunity with the Rams. I would not rule out the possibility that there are three running backs on this roster who could push Henderson far enough down the depth chart for Les Snead to consider putting him on the trade market...or the waiver wire.
Kyren Williams - 5’9, 195 lbs, born 8/26/2000
A fifth round pick out of Notre Dame, Kyren Williams shares enough similarities with Henderson—and the right complementary skillset to Akers—to assume that he is exactly the man to be the new partner for Akers. Either when Henderson leaves in free agency in 2023, or if it happens before then.
The dimensions of football that Williams excels at, such as pass protection and working as a receiver out of the backfield, are the same “weaknesses” that Akers had coming out of college two years ago. While the ideal role for Akers would be to stay on the field for three downs, that may not be realistic, or at least isn’t always possible every week.
Kyren Williams did rush for over 1,000 yards the last two seasons, but his strength was the 77 catches for 672 yards in that same period of time. He fell to the fifth round because teams would not expect him to be a three-down dual threat and the list of “day three steals” at running back is much, much shorter than Twitter would have you believe.
However, we can’t rule out any possibilities for Williams’ future and he could be the running back who exceeds expectations after the last two picks at the position have unfortunately fallen below expectations.
I won’t be shocked if the 2022 depth chart going into Week 1 is Cam Akers as the starter and Kyren Williams as his number two.
Also: Jake Funk, Xavier Jones, Raymond Calais, Javian Hawkins
I think all four of these players have a legitimate and somewhat equal shot at making the roster in September. Calais is returning from a broken foot, Jones is returning from a broken ankle, and Funk is returning from a torn hamstring. Hawkins was one of college football’s most exciting backs from 2019-2020 at Louisville, but went undrafted and has yet to appear in a regular season game.
All it takes is one outstanding training camp without any injuries for any of these four names to emerge as a possible RB3 or RB4. If I could only bet on one of them, I may forego that bet, but getting four shots to find a potential diamond in the rough greatly increases those odds.
Who would be your favorite of the four? Let us know in the comments.