What more must LA Rams rookie RB Cam Akers do, for crying out loud?

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

As the LA Rams offense slides, rookie RB Cam Akers proves he deserves more playing time

The LA Rams offense is struggling now. Yes, they can run the ball.  Yes, they can even pass the ball, albeit with more volume and less accuracy than earlier in the season. But the Rams offense is sputtering at scoring.  Not just one game. Sputtering since the shoot out in Buffalo.  Since that game, the Rams are averaging a paltry 20.8 points per game.  That is a steep downslide since the Rams first three games, where the team racked up nearly 30 points a game.

It’s a shame too. Because the Rams can defend now. The team is 3-2 over the last five games thanks to a stingy defense that protected a thin lead. But let’s take this in stride.  When the LA Rams designed this offense for this season, they committed to eventually phase in rookie running back Cam Akers. It seems that the coaching staff must have gotten lost along the way.

Come on, Cam!

The 5-foot-10, 217 running back has gotten 35 carries so far this season. In eight games, that’s just over four carries per contest. And with so few touches, he’s gotten just 148 yards on the ground.  He’s caught both passes thrown his direction for another 23 yards. That’s not on him. That’s on the coaching staff and game plans that seem to overlook the talents of a very dangerous rookie.

Akers has seen action on just 64 offensive snaps. That’s just under the amount of work he’d see in one game. And with 35 carries, he’s running the ball just over half of his time on the field. All the while, he disappears in games, or for entire games.  No rookie improves on the bench.

Rams abandoning early success

The trouble with the LA Rams offense now is the utter predictability. Here is how it works. As soon as the Rams fall behind, they fall into a pattern where they all but abandon the running game, shift to short passes for Cooper Kupp, Robert Wood, and Josh Reynolds.  The problem with that strategy is that the very plays that put the Rams behind are the very plays that the Rams switch to in an attempt to get back into the game.

Rather than pass to Gerald Everett, or run the ball with Cam Akers or Darrell Henderson, the Rams tossed 24 passes to Woods, Kupp, and Reynolds in the San Francisco 49ers loss, only to complete nine for 85 yards and one touchdown. Against the Miami Dolphins, the Rams threw 38 passes to the trio, only to complete 22 for 239 yards and one touchdown.   The Rams have fallen upon familiar and bad habits once more.

How can Cam cure that?

We know that the LA Rams can run the ball this year. Yet when the Rams misfire in the passing offense, they go right back to the passing offense. And defenses have begun to anticipate those trends from the Rams. That is how defenses can sell out on the zero-coverage blitzes with no fear of getting burned.  Not only can offenses pass intermediate routes to defeat that scheme, but they can run quick runs between the tackles to do the same thing.

Getting rookie running back Cam Akers going on offense helps to preserve the health of other runners, helps preserve the wear and tear on quarterback Jared Goff, and gives the offensive line the opportunity to run block, which is the equivalent of punching back to an offensive lineman.  And Akers can run the ball well, even against the best defenses.  He just needs some touches, something the Rams seem unwilling to give him.  When they trust him to carry the ball, they will throw off the defenses.  And with a determined young running back, these Rams will finally start putting points on the boards once more.

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It’s the Rams offense that is failing the team right now.  That cannot be repaired as easily as you might think. But a crucial step is giving young players a chance to succeed.