Why Darrell Henderson is bound to be more explosive in 2021

Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams leaned heavily upon change-of-pace running back Darrell Henderson in 2020. Perhaps too heavily, as he had suffered a high ankle sprain and ended the year on injured reserve.  After all, he was never intended to carry the load. But when the LA Rams waived veteran running back Todd Gurley, many expected the baton to be handed off to Henderson.

Henderson was drafted in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft with the 70th pick overall. While that is not an overreach on many teams, it was a significant investment for the Rams to invest a day two pick into a part-time offensive contributor. However, the plan for 2019 was to use featured running back Gurley less and relieve him with Henderson for a break, spotting him for an offensive series or two

In an ideal world, Henderson would carry the ball for 80-100 rushes per season and catch from  30-45 passes as well.  Of course, that ideal world has not yet arrived. In 2019, Henderson was out in weeks two and three, and upon his return, found it difficult to break into the rotation at running back. He eventually saw limited action in October 2019,  Unfortunately, he lost his spot on the rotation by November. In 2020, he was more fortunate, jumping out early as the leading rusher on the team.

In 2021, hopefully, the team has a bit more planning behind how they use their running backs. Unlike years past, when a running back was one of the highest-paid players on offense, NFL teams have learned to distribute their salaries a bit more evenly among offensive linemen as well.  It’s generally accepted that the Rams will feature RB Cam Akers. Ideally, the team should try to keep his carries at or under 20 carries a game.

Right now, that would mean approximately 153 carries to go around to the rest of the ball carriers.  If the Rams simply combine Malcolm Brown’s carries with that of Cam Akers, that would be Akers at approximately 250 carries, Taking another 25-50 carries from Henderson would be a good distribution for next year.  Even at 100 carries, Henderson could generate 500-600 yards on the ground. As a receiver, he could catch another 40 passes for another 400-500 yards.  That would likely be accompanied by another 10 touchdowns.

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With a change of pace back like Henderson, less is more. Keep him bouncy, rested, and fresh, and he will deliver all season and well into the playoffs. He can be a nice rotational guy in the running game, and a deceptively dangerous receiver as well. The Rams need him more than ever in the playoffs, so sticking with game plans that keeps him fresh and healthy enough to play will benefit the team in the short and long run.