Will the LA Rams tap untested rookies on offense this Sunday?
By Bret Stuter
The Rams are down to just veteran running back Malcolm Brown as a healthy running back option. Well, Brown is the only healthy running back with rushes on the offense right now. But the team does have two other running backs who are on the current roster and who could be huge boosts to the team’s running game in this one. Of course, we’re talking about running back Raymond Calais, who had signed off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad, and running back Xavier Jones, an undrafted rookie who has succeeded in landing a Rams roster spot.
Calais is a 5-foot-8 188-pound change of pace running back that is very similar in style to Darrell Henderson. His 4.42-second 40-yard dash time is blazing fast, and he uses that speed very effectively in a limited role as a kick returner for the Rams. Projected as a 5th-round selection, he was eventually drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers late in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft. While Calais is ineffective in blocking, he does threaten defenses at the perimeter. And best of all, he has a good handle on the football.
Last, but certainly not least in our view, is undrafted rookie running back Xavier Jones. There is nothing particularly flashy or brilliant that jumps off the page about Jones. After all, he is 5-foot-11 and 208-pounds. His 2020 NFL Draft profile describes him in the blandest of terminology:
"‘Jones is just average athletically, lacking the wiggle and creativity to keep runs alive beyond their standard shelf life. He’s a determined runner with good lower-body power and forward lean who runs behind his pads and falls forward through contact. He lacks sideline-to-sideline range as a runner but can work outside the tackles in outside zone. There is nothing special that defines his game. He lacks versatility beyond the early downs’- per NFL analyst Lance Zierlein"
And that is what makes Jones so very intriguing.
A guy who is average this, and lacking that somehow managed to score 23 touchdowns in one NCAA football season? He does it by playing in the shadow of his blockers, much like that of teammate Cam Akers. In fact, he is very similar to Akers in many ways. While raw, he slides up to the line of scrimmage, waits for a crease to develop, and then bursts through to daylight. (sound familiar?) He has yet to have an opportunity to run with the ball, but he has a keen nose for the end zone.
The Rams have four untested rookies on their roster. While they may disappoint, they could also pleasantly surprise. There are no more tomorrows to away