Outside of Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks, the Los Angeles Rams offense hasn’t been a balanced unit. After trading away Cam Akers, Kyren Williams got 14 carries against the San Francisco 49ers and was limited to just 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Part of that is Sean McVay and the offensive play-calling. However, it’s also worth wondering whether or not McVay sees Williams as a 20-25 carry per game player or just 10-15.
Despite limited carries, Williams has still managed to be effective. The fact that he only got 10 carries against the Bengals remains unacceptable. It’s not as if Williams wasn’t effective in his 10 carries. Only one of Williams’ 10 carries went for negative yards and he had four carries that went more than five yards.
Puka Pancake™️ *patent pending*.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) September 27, 2023
Puka Nacua sends the DB FLYING pic.twitter.com/ZxZkpqU9CM
Williams’ 3.8 yards per carry may be unimpressive. However, take away his one run for negative three yards that was a sweep outside read perfectly by the Bengals defense and Williams had nine carries for 41 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
Now, you can argue that Williams should be averaging more yards per carry because he isn’t facing a stacked box. In fact, Williams hasn’t faced a single stacked box this season. With that said, he’s also generally getting what’s being blocked for him and stacked boxes are typically dictated by offensive personnel more than whether or not a defense respects a run game.
In 2018, Todd Gurley only faced a stacked box in the Rams offense on 7.8 percent of his carries which was one of the lowest rates in the NFL. With the Rams primarily in 11 personnel, it makes sense that defenses aren’t matching that with eight defenders in the box with Matthew Stafford at quarterback.
This season, Williams is averaging -0.46 rushing yards over expected per attempt which only ranks 29th in the NFL. He currently has a total of -18 rushing yards over expected, but -19 of that came against the San Francisco 49ers. Williams averaged -0.1 rushing yards over expected against the Cincinnati Bengals and 0.15 rushing yards over expected against the Seattle Seahawks. Take away the 49ers game, and Williams is generally getting what’s blocked for him.
Kyren Williams hasn’t been elite by any means, but he has a positive EPA per rush and over a 40% success rate.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) September 27, 2023
When it comes to numbers that actually matter, Kyren Williams is fine. pic.twitter.com/irVEg5Y7sG
Williams ranks sixth in running back DVOA in 2023 and sixth in overall success rate among running backs with at least 30 carries. Take Pro Football Focus for what you will, but Williams has the seventh-highest run grade among running backs as well. His 2.59 yards per contact per attempt ranks 19th.
There is something to be said about Williams’ lack of explosiveness. He’s the only running back with at least 30 carries to not have a single attempt go for 10 or more yards. That’s not to say he can’t do it though. In 2020, Williams ranked 10th among Power-5 running backs in carries that went for more than 10 yards. It comes down to the Rams’ ability to block at the second-level.
You could argue that Williams needs to be more creative. And as a running back that’s supposed to be a good receiver, he and Stafford haven’t been able to connect on a consistent basis.
The criticism surrounding Williams seems to have more to do with the emotional attachment to Cam Akers. The Rams running game hasn’t been ineffective because of Kyren Williams. It’s been ineffective because McVay hasn’t committed to a run game since Week 1.
It’s only been three games. Williams deserves more time, especially with the advanced stats that he’s putting up currently.
The Rams need to find a running back that they can pair with Williams as he shouldn’t be playing 100 percent of the snaps as he did last week. However, he’s earned an opportunity and more time to be the primary player in the Rams backfield.