Rams expect Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson to fill Todd Gurley’s shoes

Rams running back Malcolm Brown leaps over Saints safety Marcus Williams to score a touchdown in November, 2018.
When running back Malcolm Brown has been given the opportunity he has stepped up for the Rams, here scoring a touchdown against the Saints in 2018.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

As the Rams prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 8 of 10: Running backs.

Malcolm Brown apprenticed for five seasons behind Todd Gurley, Darrell Henderson for one. The backups each showed potential to do more with greater opportunities.

With Gurley released and subsequently signed by the Atlanta Falcons, Brown and Henderson are projected to share the load for a Rams team venturing into new territory.


In Sean McVay’s three seasons as Rams coach, all facets of the offense ran through or worked off Gurley, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2017 NFL offensive player of the year.

Now, after last season’s disappointing 9-7 finish, McVay, new offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, new running backs coach Thomas Brown and run-game coordinator Aaron Kromer will attempt to reignite the rushing attack without a star running back.

Brown, 26, signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He became a special teams standout and solid backup for Gurley. Last season, Brown rushed for 255 yards and five touchdowns in 69 carries.

The Rams’ decision to part ways with Todd Gurley means Jared Goff must deliver for the Rams in 2020 after receiving a mammoth contract extension last year.

“We’ve seen what Malcolm can do pretty consistently,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “He’s always been a guy that’s stepped in there when he’s needed to.”

Henderson, 22, was a third-round draft pick in 2019. He was regarded as a potential change-of-pace back and — because of questions surrounding the durability of Gurley’s left knee — an insurance policy.

The Rams' Darrell Henderson finds running room against the Denver Broncos.
Rams running back Darrell Henderson will be given the opportunity to carry the football much more this coming season.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Henderson did not play a significant role as a rookie. He rushed for 147 yards in 39 carries. In the second-to-last game of the season, he suffered an ankle injury and underwent surgery.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth has said that Henderson displayed elements of “lightning in a bottle.” Goff described Henderson as “a special talent” who can pose a threat to defenses.

“He’s got the ability to be, I think, as time goes on, a top guy,” Goff said. “We’re going to have to wait and see, but he’s got everything you want.”

When Rams took Darrell Henderson in second round last year, he was disappointed how long he had lasted in the draft. With Todd Gurley gone, Henderson gets a chance to prove himself.

John Kelly, a sixth-round draft pick in 2018, played in four games last season but was on the practice squad for most of the season.

Who is under contract: Brown ($1.3 million), Henderson ($956,000), Kelly ($750,000).

Free agents: Gurley signed a one-year $5.5-million deal with the Atlanta Falcons, but the Rams still owe him at least $5 million. The Rams could add a veteran free agent running back as they get closer to training camp.

Draft: The Rams do not seem inclined to use one of their two second-round picks on a running back. But they have five other selections. They also could sign undrafted free agents.

Roster decisions: Brown, who was a restricted free agent after the 2018 season, is in the final year of a $3.3-million contract the Rams gave him after matching an offer sheet from the Detroit Lions.

NEXT: Quarterbacks.