It’s a Sony Michel outlook with Rams’ injured Darrell Henderson questionable to play

The Rams' Sony Michel runs against Indianapolis' Khari Willis.
The Rams’ Sony Michel runs against Indianapolis’ Khari Willis (37) during the second half Sunday in Indianapolis.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

Running back Sony Michel made a big impact is his first extended playing time with the Rams, replacing injured Darrell Henderson in the fourth quarter and carrying the load during a game-winning drive against the Indianapolis Colts.

So, Michel will have a larger role, possibly as the starter, when the Rams play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday that the rib injury suffered by Henderson during their 27-24 victory at Indianapolis involved a cartilage issue. The team will monitor Henderson throughout the week and determine his status Friday, McVay said.


“If the pain subsides, then we will be confident in being able to utilize him,” McVay said. “Does that mean he starts and plays [a similar] amount of reps?”

Recent Rams history suggests Henderson probably will not play against the Buccaneers.

In Rams’ 27-24 victory over Colts, Matthew Stafford, Sony Michel and the Rams’ defense provide big plays, but the special teams unit is a concern.

Sept. 20, 2021

Last season, running back Cam Akers suffered a rib injury in the second game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He was sidelined for two games, opening the door for Henderson to make the first of 11 starts before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury for the second consecutive season.

Akers was the projected starter this season but suffered a ruptured Achilles on the eve of training camp. Concerns about Henderson’s durability prompted the Rams to acquire Michel in a late preseason trade with the New England Patriots.

Now Michel, a 2018 first-round draft pick who has twice rushed for more than 900 yards in a season, could replace Henderson as the starter.

Michel, 26, played only three snaps and carried once in the Rams’ season-opening victory over the Chicago Bears. He said last week that he was fine with his role, that he supported Henderson and that he would be ready when called upon.

Limited to one carry in the season opener, Rams running back Sony Michel is fine waiting for opportunities whenever they come.

Sept. 17, 2021


He got his chance against the Colts after Henderson was injured on a second-down carry early in the fourth quarter.

“He came in with a big smile,” receiver Robert Woods said of Michel. “He was like, ‘All right, it’s go time now.’”

After the Colts took a 21-17 lead, Michel rushed for five yards to continue a four-play scoring drive. The Colts tied the score before Michel rushed six times for 36 yards during a game-winning field-goal drive.

“That was good for me, that was good for our players to see,” McVay said, “and I thought he did a nice job closing it out.”

Said Michel: “You want to string good plays together, create good momentum for our team, our offense, our sideline.”

If Henderson does not play or is limited Sunday, rookie Jake Funk could play as part of a rotation with Michel. Funk, a seventh-round draft pick from Maryland, got extended opportunities during preseason games.

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Sept. 20, 2021

“We’ve got to take the approach that those guys have to get ready to carry the load,” McVay said. “And if Darrell can go, that’s a positive for us.”


Reserve outside linebacker Justin Lawler underwent hand surgery but might be available to play Sunday with a cast, McVay said. ... Receiver DeSean Jackson, signed as a potential deep threat, played only three snaps and was not targeted against the Colts. “I’ve got to figure out a better way to get him involved,” McVay said. “He’s too good of a player. We brought him here to impact and influence the game and that’s something that’s going to be reflected moving forward. There’s nothing that Sean didn’t do. It’s, I just got to figure out a better way of getting him involved in a rotation so that he can affect the outcome of the game.” … McVay said he was not concerned about special teams, which have suffered in breakdowns in both games. “There has got to be a sense of urgency,” he said, adding, “We need to be better. There’s no doubt about it.”… Effective Oct. 7, proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours will be required for entry at SoFi Stadium for fans ages 12 and older, the Rams said in a letter to season-ticket holders. The directive, part of Los Angeles County Public Health guidelines, does not impact the game Sunday against the Buccaneers or the next game against the Arizona Cardinals. Masks are currently required and will continue to be so after Oct. 7.