In the season opener against the Buffalo Bills, the Los Angeles Rams were basically ran off the field in a 31-10 blowout loss to start the supposed ‘Run It Back’ campaign. In a game where Matthew Stafford threw multiple interceptions, the offensive line struggled, and the defense did not force a single punt, there was another story-line that was awfully surprising Thursday night.
The Rams decided to start Darrell Henderson at running back, a shocking move due to the simple fact that most fans expected third year man Cam Akers to be the feature back out of the gate for Los Angeles. However that was far from the case, as Akers logged a measly 12 snaps against Buffalo, carrying the ball only a total of 3 times for 0 yards.
In total, the Rams ran 17 designed run plays in Thursday’s season opener, with 13 of those going to Darrell Henderson. It was clear from the start of the game that Henderson was going to be the main tail back for L.A., the question is why?
There are a couple possibilities as to why Henderson got a majority of the work to start the year, with both being somewhat concerning for Akers no matter how one may slice it. The first possibility is that Akers is more injured that what was being lead on leading up to the game, and that those “soft-tissue” issues he was dealing with in camp are more serious than was initially imaged. Akers did miss about two weeks of training camp dealing with that injury, so the idea that he is still struggling with it is nowhere near out of the realm of possibility.
The second possibility is a more straightforward approach, and that is the chance that the coaches simply feel Henderson is the better option at the running back position. The Rams spent a second round pick on Akers a few years back, so that pick inevitably comes with certain expectations as it pertains to playing time and role on the team. With that being said, the NFL is known as a ‘prove it’ business, meaning expectations and hopes do not equate to performance and competition. There is definitely a chance that Henderson outplayed Akers in camp and beat him out for the starting position, as training camp is quite literally a competition for playing time and proving who gives the team the best chance to win on game day.
Although it may be shocking to a lot of Rams fans, there is a real shot that Darrell Henderson will be the main back in the 2022 season. Nevertheless, I feel that is not going to be the case, as Akers is simply too talented and too young to play second fiddle in the Rams rushing attack. My guess is that McVay learned from the unfortunate and rapid spiral downhill in terms of health that he saw from former star Todd Gurley, so he is simply load-managing Akers’ health and workload. McVay probably does not feel the need to rush him back when there is another very capable runner on the roster, and understandably so as Henderson is no slouch in the slightest.
If you are a fantasy owner of Akers, this idea of load-managing will not be in your favor, but this is real football, and the Rams will need their best players when it matters most down the stretch. There is no need to hit the panic button on Akers in my eyes, we still have 16 more games to go in a long and treacherous NFL season.
What do you folks think? Will Darrell Henderson continue to be the Rams feature back this season?