Cam Akers runs to front of the Rams’ running back rotation
He has carried the ball 50 times in the last two games.
But Rams coach Sean McVay is not ready to publicly anoint rookie Cam Akers as the team’s featured running back.
On Friday morning, about 12 hours after Akers had rushed for 171 yards in 29 carries in a 24-3 victory over the New England Patriots, McVay said he still intended to utilize running backs Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown.
So the running-back-by-committee approach remains in play, at least in theory.
“Malcolm and Darrell are both very valuable parts of what we do,” McVay said during a videoconference with reporters. “It was Cam’s night … but as far as how we move forward, I think what’s important for us is capitalizing on all the different playmakers that we do have.”
Akers’ ascent is not a surprise, only delayed.
After the Rams’ released running back Todd Gurley last March, they used their first pick in the NFL draft to select Akers in the second round with the 52nd overall pick.
Gurley was the Rams’ franchise back for five seasons until they released him in March. He will play at SoFi Stadium on Sunday as a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
The former Florida State standout started the first two games but suffered a rib injury early in a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles and was sidelined for two games. He broke off a 61-yard run in a victory over Washington but barely played against the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears.
In the next four games, he had a combined 33 carries. He caught a touchdown pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and ran for a touchdown in the second matchup against the 49ers.
But in a 38-28 victory over the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, Akers rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown in a career-high 21 carries.
He started against the Patriots, and carried the load for an offense that scored two touchdowns. Henderson gained five yards in two carries. Brown had zero carries and was targeted on one pass.
“Cam got into a rhythm right away and we kind of just felt like he was the hot hand and decided to go with that,” McVay said.
Henderson remains the Rams’ leading rusher with 564 yards and five touchdowns in 125 carries. Akers has rushed for 528 yards and two touchdowns in 109 carries. Brown has rushed for 368 yards and five touchdowns in 90 carries.
With three games left in the regular season, McVay probably will continue to use all three.
Akers has said throughout the season that he accepts any role assigned.
But recent performances are setting him apart.
“Just let the offensive line open up the holes for me,” Akers said after the victory Thursday. “When they create the space that’s all I need.”
Sam Farmer makes his picks and predictions for Week 14 of the 2020 NFL season.
The Rams (9-4) are off this weekend. They will return Monday to begin preparations for their Dec. 20 game against the New York Jets at SoFi Stadium. The Jets are 0-12 heading into their game Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, who are 8-4 and currently second in the NFC West.
McVay said he was not concerned that his players would look past the Jets, especially with a postseason berth on the line.
“I do trust the maturity of this football team,” he said.
The Rams this week signed long snapper Colin Holba to the practice squad as a precautionary measure should Jake McQuaide be affected by injury or COVID-19, McVay said. “It was just a contingency plan if God forbid something were to happen to him, or you lose him for a COVID-contact trace, or whatever,” McVay said. “I mean this year is forcing you to think through a lot of stuff. It’s why I’m not sleeping much.”… McVay was happy to see star defensive lineman Aaron Donald and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey clearing the way for linebacker Kenny Young during his 79-yard interception return for a touchdown. “That’s my favorite play of the game, because you see two of the best players in the world out in front blocking for him, and the genuine joy,” McVay said.
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