In losing to the Steelers 24-17 last week, the L.A. Rams did commit to running the football which is about the only silver lining you are going to receive. Will Sean McVay repeat how he used his top two running backs this Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys?
Darrell Henderson was signed five days before the game to the practice squad and ended up carrying the rock 18 times for 61 yards and caught one of two targets for five. In addition to that Henderson found the end zone. It might come as a shock but those 18 carries were the third most of Henderson’s NFL career.
As for Royce Freeman, he carried the ball 12 times for 66 yards. Freeman looked good as well but ran more efficiently in the stat department. It is worth mentioning though, Henderson went against a stacked box 16.67 percent of the time which is the only stacked box a Rams running back has seen since Cam Akers in week one against the Seattle Seahawks. Due to the stacked front with at least eight or more defensive players, Henderson ran in tougher assignments. Will that factor into the workload on Sunday?
I don’t believe so at all.
Freeman ran hard and ran well, as did Henderson although the yards per carry average won’t reflect that. Both back were good in pass pro, Henderson had six reps and gave up zero pressures while Freeman had seven and gave up one pressure. These were the only two backs at the end of the day that Sean McVay trusted with the ball in a close hard-fought physical game.
Going up against the Dallas Cowboys this week, the Rams will have to do more of what they did last week going over 120 yards on the ground with two running backs who hadn’t carried the ball once the whole season. The Cowboys defense is 18th in rushing yards per game allowed, the Rams are 11th in rushing yards per game in the last three games and even better the Rams are sixth in yards per carry per game in the last three games.
The Rams have run the ball much better in the recent weeks and a big reason for that is the insertion of Pro Football Focus’ top rated guard Kevin Dotson into the starting lineup. Dotson has been a model of consistency at right guard and the running backs are seeing first hand just how good he can be in the run game. Since Dotson has taken over, the Rams when running between the center and right guard or between the right guard and right tackle spot of the offensive line have 30 carries for 177 yards and seven first down conversions. That’s a 5.9 yards per carry average and very efficient to say the least.
If the Rams want to beat Dallas and bounce back they will need the ground game and they will definitely need to stick with it to mitigate that freakish pass rush they deploy with Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong Jr. and others. The Rams did this last week and it held T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith to zero sacks, they will need to replicate that to win this game. Mind you, this is the same team who let James Conner run all over them in the Cardinals shocking upset of the Cowboys. The Rams have a shot.
For Fantasy Football owners, I wouldn’t go crazy with either running back, Darrell Henderson seems like the better start but I would avoid starting either if you can and if you have Zach Evans on your roster it might not make any sense to unless it’s a dynasty league. As for bettors, I believe that both Henderson and Freeman should go over their prop total assuming it’s not anything crazy. Both running backs should go over 40 yards this week at least. As far as anytime touchdown, I trust McVay who gave Henderson three red zone touches on their only red zone drive, to go back to Henderson in the red area so I like his anytime touchdown prop.
The bottom line is this, at least for now it’s the Darrell Henderson and Royce Freeman show. There’s a chance Zach Evans sees a carry or two and there’s a chance we see Myles Gaskin in the receiving game, but expect to see number 24 and number 27 running the ball a lot in this upset bid.