LA Rams running game now turns to veteran Sony Michel

Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams’ luck with keeping running backs available to play has not exactly been going according to plan. To be honest, the RBs have been dropping faster than the victims in some cheesy Halloween movie sequel. The Rams have lost the services of Cam Akers, Xavier Jones, and Raymond Calais. The team has waived Otis Anderson Jr. from the practice squad, and now faces the uncertainty of a rib injury impacting the availability of running back Darrell Henderson.

When the LA Rams had to get running back Sony Michel onto the field against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2, he performed rather well. Now the Rams hope that carries over into Week 3 because it appears that he will be the main running back against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that is one of the toughest NFL teams to run against over the past two seasons.

More than a single running back

Of course, the LA Rams won’t rely on a running game alone. They went out and traded for veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, a player who may very well be the missing link for the LA Rams offense if they have any hope to win a Super Bowl anytime soon. While Stafford has certainly delivered yards and touchdowns, he has been limited a bit so far. The LA Rams are 27th in the NFL in pass attempts, yet are 12 in the NFL in completion percentage, seventh in the NFL in passing yards,  tied for fifth in the NFL in passing touchdowns, and finally are third in the NFL for yards per attempt.

To give Michel a breather, the Rams could deploy rookie running back Jake Funk for some offensive plays. The Rams also have Buddy Howell and Javian Hawkins on the practice squad, but it’s unlikely that the Rams will activate either player to the 53-man roster for this one.  So what can the Rams expect in this one?

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Michel has rushed just 11 times for 48 yards. Not great, but not bad for a player just getting into a game for a new NFL team. He’s historically been the guy who runs north to south, squaring up his shoulders, hitting the hole quickly, and being very difficult to tackle without fully wrapping him up.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers run defense is incredibly stingy. But that shouldn’t rule out the Rams testing it in this one. Clearly, the Buccaneers’ offense is red hot and has scored a lot of points this year. The Rams may chip away at the time of possession in this one while trying to lure the defense closer to the line of scrimmage.  That would set up the Rams’ own explosive offense to score quickly.

Tricks up McVay’s sleeve

Of course, the LA Rams have ways to move the ball on the ground beyond the legs of Sony Michel. The Rams have already made use of both Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp in the running game. In theory, the Rams could use any receiver in that type of play,  Since the Rams have not run Van Jefferson nor DeSean Jackson in that play, it could be very effective.

The Rams have not used tight end, Johnny Mundt, against their opponents yet. Mundt has historically been a player who will line up in the backfield to help block at the point of attack. He could be very effective as a power back in this game.

While we are spitballing possibilities, both John Wolford and Bryce Perkins are mobile quarterbacks, and the Rams could wildcat with either player in the backfield to help boost the rushing offense while giving the Bucs defense something more to think about.

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So what should you expect from Sony Michel this weekend? Well, I’m tempted to go big, but let’s go with 18 carries, 78 yards, and one touchdown. He could do better, but I’m not certain that Rams head coach Sean McVay will let him.