LA Rams veteran RB Sony Michel did more than run the ball in Week 3 debut

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

When the LA Rams understood that RB Darrell Henderson would be unable to go against the formidable rush defense that is fielded by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I’m not quite certain how that internal conversation went down.  But based on the team’s apparent reluctance to name recently acquired Sony Michel as the starter, there was something less than 100 percent confidence in him.

Clearly, the Rams did not want to show their hand to their opponent too soon and maintained that Henderson was ‘questionable’ and would be a game-time decision. Was it truly a 50-50 coin toss type of decision? I truly cannot see how. Entering Week 3 of a 17 game NFL season is really no time to burn through your featured running back, particularly one you’d held out of preseason games and preseason practices to ensure his health and availability.

Rams head coach Sean McVay does not like to rush new faces onto the football field. Whether rookie or veteran, a new player is not afforded the chance to play until the coaching staff faces an immediate need to promote a player due to injury, or that player has proving in practice to be as competent as the starting players. In this case, veteran running back Michel was promoted due to Darrell Henderson’s injury.

Measure twice, cut once

Reluctance is an apt term to use here. The LA Rams know that the success of the 2021 NFL season rests on the arm of veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, not on the legs of Sony Michel. So one of the key components of any running back hoping to successfully earn offensive snaps is the ability to pick up defensive blitzes before a defender can get to Stafford.

Sony Michel proved that he could again and again.

On this afternoon, Matthew Stafford dropped by 38 times and was sacked once. That was not due to a lack of trying by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, as they blitzed multiple times. But Sony Michel was there to stop them at the door, even Devon White.

All boxes checked

So Michel can bloke, huh? Well, can he run? Yes, yes he can. He rushed 20 times for 67 yards. For comparison purposes, that was almost twice the number of rushing yards gained by the entire Rams rushing attack in 2020 against the same Buccaneers defense. Only this year, the Bucs had a healthy nose tackle Vita Vea.

But he was also effective in the passing offense too. His three catches for 12 yards rivaled 2020’s offense by the entire running back committee that combined for four catches for 16 yards. In short, this may have been Michel’s debut, but it was a very successful debut.

The LA Rams are 3-0 and are not out of the woods just yet. The team now must face consecutive NFC West rivals by hosting the Arizona Cardinals (3-0) and then traveling to face the Seattle Seahawks (1-2).  But the LA Rams now have a pretty comfortable feeling about the play at the quarterback position.

Trending. Matthew Stafford just put an exclamation point on his MVP candidacy. light

They also feel much better about the running back situation today as well.