The history of the Los Angeles Rams is filled with great running backs. It’s very easy to argue that the Rams have the best running backs for one franchise in the history of the NFL. From Eric Dickerson to Marshall Faulk, Steven Jackson, and Todd Gurley, the Rams have had some all-time great players at the running back position.
Throughout his career, Cam Akers has shown flashes, but has never been able to consistently put it together. In 2020, Akers showed the ability to take over games. Against the New England Patriots, the second-round pick rushed for 171 yards on 29 carries. It was the fourth-most rushing yards by a Rams rookie in a single game in franchise history.
Three games later, Akers rushed for 131 yards in the NFC Wild Card round as the Rams defeated the Seattle Seahawks on the road. It marked the first home playoff loss under Pete Carroll. Akers did that despite John Wolford starting the game and Jared Goff with an impaired throwing hand finishing it. He simply took over the game.
With the highs, there have also been the obvious lows. Akers tore his achilles in the offseason heading into his second year in the NFL. In his next 10 games, the Rams running back would average just 2.65 yards on 123 carries. Akers lacked the explosiveness, vision, and decisiveness when carrying the ball. It was fair to wonder if he would ever return to the player at the end of 2020.
Then, the end of last season happened. Over the final four games, Akers had 75 carries for 410 yards, averaging 5.47 yards per attempt.
The issue with Akers has been the lack of consistency. Some of it can be blamed on returning from the injury while some of it can also be blamed on the offensive line and McVay as a coach. At the same time, Akers was also partially at fault for his ineffectiveness. All of those things can be true at the same time in this conversation.
Heading into 2023, the Rams need the Akers from the final stretch of 2020 and 2022 to be the primary player that shows up on Sundays. Without Cooper Kupp for at least Week 1, the playmaker to step up in the Rams offense has to be Akers.
Akers is the only player outside of Kupp that has shown the ability and has the potential to completely take over games. The Rams have made the changes this offseason to help give Akers the best chance to succeed and become the face of the offense. As The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue notes,
“Possible schematic changes that may combine McVay’s signature zone run game with more gap and power concepts can be identified in the backgrounds of many of his assistants...More clues: The Rams bulked up along their offensive line...Lead rusher Cam Akers said at the start of camp that he also put on muscle...McVay believes that some of the pressure Stafford faced last season can be alleviated with a consistent, efficient run game. To McVay, getting more multiple in the run game also means more pass game concepts can be activated for Stafford out of similar pre-snap looks from under center, including the bootlegs and play-action pass game that can also help ward off pressure.”
Without Kupp, Akers is the key to unlocking the Rams offense. Heading into year four, it’s time for the former second-round pick to take on a larger role and become a leader on the team — much like the Rams running backs that came before him.
The Rams didn’t do a lot of winning with Steven Jackson, but it was guaranteed that he was going to give it everything he had on the field on Sundays. There’s a reason he rushed for 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons. Marshall Faulk was considered the most important player in the Greatest Show on Turf. In McVay’s early years with the Rams, the offense ran through Todd Gurley as he went on to win the 2017 Offensive Player of the Year.
Over the past two years, the Rams offense has ran through Kupp. As the team transitions into a new era heading into 2024 and 2025, there’s no reason that player moving forward can’t be Akers. He’s shown the ability over stretches, but finding the consistency is key.
Akers heads into a very important 2023 season, entering a contract year. While the Rams could bring him back as he will be a restricted free agent, the team could very easily let him walk as well. WIth Kupp being forced to miss time due to his hamstring injury, the opportunity is there for the offense to run through Akers.
Given what Akers has shown in flashes, it’s hard not to have some belief in his ability. He’s done just enough to keep you holding out hope that he can reach the potential. The Seattle Seahawks provide a good opportunity for Akers as it’s a team that he’s had success. Look no further than the 2020 playoff game
Last season, the Seahawks had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. In Akers’ last two games at Lumen Field, he’s rushed for 100 yards each time, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. With Kupp out, Akers must be the player to step up and carry the offense.