LA Rams RB Malcolm Brown just needs the damn ball

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The LA Rams were never going to feature RB Malcolm Brown with Todd Gurley in the backfield. But with Gurley gone, is this Malcolm Brown’s moment?

Believe it or not, the leadership torch for the LA Rams senior running back has been handed off.  It wasn’t handed off to rookie running back Cam Akers, even though he is the latest addition to the backfield.  It wasn’t handed to second-year running back Darrell Henderson, despite the predictions of this being his year.  It wasn’t handed off to running back John Kelly, despite his joining the team in 2018.

Finally, it was not handed off to the 2019 NCAA scoring champion Xavier Jones.  No, the torch is being handed off to the veteran running back of the group, Malcolm Brown. And he is taking that role very seriously.

Work the horse that works

Brown never claimed to be as flashy as Gurley, as elusive as Henderson, or as electrifying as Akers. He just is what he is. So what is he? Well, he’s a team-first guy. He’s the guy who will celebrate his teammates’ success as much as his own.  He’s a blue-collar guy. A guy who will put his head down over and over. Three yards. Five yards. Maybe an occasional 12 yard carry.  But you likely won’t see him break one the length of the field for a touchdown.

Instead, he wears down a defense. And that is where the square peg sometimes doesn’t fit into the LA Rams round slot. He needs touches and consistency. The Rams offense uses a bit of razzle-dazzle at times. Brown doesn’t razzle, and he is seldom in a position to dazzle. But can he be effective? You bet!

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Just give Brown the damned ball

The Rams 2020 season is similar to the 2019 season. At that time, the Rams had rookie RB Henderson new to the NFL, and veteran RB Gurley with a fog of uncertainty surrounding him. So the Rams opened the road game against the Carolina Panthers by handing the ball off to Brown 11 times. The result? 53 yards on the ground, plus two touchdowns.

He followed up that performance with six carries against the New Orleans Saints for 37 yards, plus one reception for 10 yards. After that? His production and usage waned.  The Rams struggled to run the ball between the tackles, the wheelhouse lanes for Brown. It was a tough year to do what Malcolm Brown does best.

New year, a new opportunity

The Rams are entering a new season, and with it, a new reason for optimism.  Why is Brown upbeat? Brown is the senior running back, the leader for the team’s backfield.  Leadership is more than telling, it’s giving the example. Right now, the Rams backfield is filled with young unknowns. Brown is known.

And he is as dependable as they come.

Brown needs more carries to wear down defenses. Without Gurley, and while the Rams figure out what they have in both Akers, Henderson, Jones, and Kelly, Brown knows the offense well. In an uncertain future, with unfamiliar players, is this the time to go with Brown until someone wins the job outright?

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I believe that it is. Even as the team drafts the “obvious successor” to Gurley, It’s better to reward a player based on his performance than to annoint him based on his resume.  I believe this is Brown’s chance to claim the spotlight that he so selflessly allowed to shine on others.