LA Rams RB Cam Akers must claim his place among NFL great RBs
By Bret Stuter
The list of qualities needed to be an elite NFL running back is extensive. And if any team knows what it takes to be an elite NFL running back, I’d say that the LA Rams track record at the position is stellar. The Rams have unleashed some of the fiercest and most productive rushers onto professional football.
To succeed in the NFL, a running back needs speed. He must be elusive. Of course, he must run with power, continuing to churn his legs at the moment a defender wraps him up, and even afterward. He must have strong hands. He must be able to make the first defender miss. He must have a great burst. But you do not often hear about patience as a crucial characteristic, but it may be the most important quality of all.
Patience. Patience is a virtue, especially when you are a rookie running back trying to break into the starting rotations for LA Rams head coach Sean McVay’s offense. You see, the LA Rams offense certainly takes its sweet ole time to warm up to rookies. Whether or not they deserve the opportunity to make an immediate impact, that’s just the way it is.
The Rams offense never (well almost never) placed rookies OL Tremayne Anchrum or TE Brycen Hopkins on the field. The team meted out the opportunities for rookie WR Van Jefferson. And even rookie running back Cam Akers, who the Rams selected with their first appearance at the podium of the 2020 NFL Draft had to settle for spot rotational duty until the latter part of the season.
Eventually, McVay succumbed. He needed a good game out of Akers to face his nemesis, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. What he got was complete domination. He churned out 171 yards on the ground. It was his first 100 yard game of his rookie season. but it would not be his last.
He showed up big in the NFL Playoffs as well, rushing 46 times for 221 yards and two touchdowns. That was a 4.8 yards-per-carry average when the defenses were keying on stopping him. He did so with patience. Akers is like an offensive lineman’s shadow. He stays in stride and close, with his head up, using his blockers like human shields to stay between himself and the defenders. When he sees daylight, it runs to it.
He has the patience to succeed. He’s nowhere near the likes of LA Rams greats like Marshall Faulk, Eric Dickerson, Steven Jackson, or even Todd Gurley. But he’s showing plenty of promise. He simply needs more opportunities.
He’ll have plenty of opportunities in 2021. His average yards-per-carry needs approximately 250 carries to achieve 1100 yards rushing. The Rams rushed 473 times in 2020, so the carries are definitely there. In fact, teammate running back Darrell Henderson will likely have a reduced load in 2021 that can be rolled into a third running back who was not part of the 2020 running back committee.
Akers will do his part to carry the ball. But he showed even more promise as a receiver. If he can master that aspect of the game, the LA Rams will have restocked the offense with a player with the same explosive potential as RB Todd Gurley.
Stafford will love this offense. Ultimately, he will find Cam Akers as a dangerous go-to weapon in the passing game. And Akers will keep defenses honest by rushing to daylight. Have the LA Rams learned what it will take to win it all? Well, they owned the Patriots in 2020 and defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa Bay in 2020 as well. So are they capable? I think yes.
Now it’s a matter of restocking the roster, resynching players and coaches, reworking playbooks, and returning healthier and hungrier than ever. What of running back Cam Akers.
Patience. Patience is a virtue.