Rams running backs John Kelly and Justin Davis are eager to show abilities

Rams running back Justin Davis carries the ball at training camp on July 27, 2019.
The Rams’ Justin Davis carries the ball at training camp in late July. Davis played at USC and signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2017.
(Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

John Kelly and Justin Davis sense opportunity, even though the Rams made heavy investments in other running backs.

Before last season, the Rams gave star Todd Gurley a massive extension. During the offseason, they matched an offer sheet to retain veteran Malcolm Brown. Then they spent a third-round draft pick on Darrell Henderson.

Kelly, a sixth-round pick in 2018, and Davis, who played at USC and signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2017, are fighting for a roster spot.


Davis did not sound anxious after the Rams finished a walkthrough Friday at the University of Hawaii in preparation for Saturday’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys at Aloha Stadium.

“When you look at numbers, when you look at rosters, you can get caught up in it — and that’s something you don’t want to do,” said Davis, who is expected to play Saturday after sitting out the preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders because of a concussion. “So my mind-set is to go out there, do the best I can no matter who’s watching, showcase my ability, and I believe if I work hard and give my all, it will all work out for the best.”

During the preseason, coach Sean McVay is holding out starters and key rotational players to avoid injuries that could sideline or slow them for the Sept. 8 opener against the Carolina Panthers. Gurley and Brown — and nearly every Rams starter — did not make the trip.

Sean McVay remains confident Jared Goff can lead the Los Angeles Rams to Super Bowl glory, but the quarterback’s track record is less than stellar.

Aug. 14, 2019

Henderson is expected to play a larger role Saturday — he carried six times for 13 yards against the Raiders — but Kelly and Davis also will have opportunities.

Last season, after Gurley suffered a knee injury against the Philadelphia Eagles, Kelly looked overmatched in pass-protection situations, and he made it a point to improve that part of his game during offseason workouts.

He started against the Raiders and rushed for 10 yards in three carries, and aims to build on that against the Cowboys.


“Hopefully, I can break a big run,” he said Friday. “That would be nice — get into the end zone or something.”

Davis said it was “full circle” that his first opportunity this preseason will come at Aloha Stadium. In 2013, in his first college game, he rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown in 14 carries in USC’s victory over Hawaii.

Last season, Davis played in 11 games, mainly on special teams. He did rush for 19 yards on a carry against the Chicago Bears, but a shoulder injury sidelined him late in the season.

So he is eager to play against the Cowboys.

In 2017, Davis fumbled twice in his first series in a preseason game against the Cowboys. Last season, he rushed for 41 yards in seven carries in the preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens.

“You want to see him show what makes him a unique player — that explosiveness, the ability to create with the ball in his hands, take great care of it,” McVay said. “I think when he’s got his opportunities, especially in some of these preseason games, you can’t help but say, ‘Man, you feel that speed, he flashes on the screen.’

“That’s what we are hoping to see.”


Blake Bortles will start again at quarterback. ... Cornerback Marcus Peters attended the walkthrough and went through a workout on the side with strength and conditioning coach Ted Rath. ... The Rams were scheduled to have a luau at their hotel Friday night, McVay said. ... After the walkthrough, defensive lineman Aaron Donald did a cameo for the television series “Magnum P.I.,” a Rams official said.