Will the real LA Rams feature RB for 2022 please stand up?
The LA Rams entered the 2021 NFL season with high optimism regarding their offense, and more specifically, their ability to run the football. After a 2020 NFL season when the LA Rams were able to end up as the 10th-best rushing offense in the NFL, things seemed rather positive indeed. The team was able to blend a triad of runners: Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson Jr., and Cam Akers, into the offense until Akers was capable of taking the lion’s share of the work.
It was Akers’ finale to the 2020 season, his 221 yards and two touchdowns, in two playoff games that truly set the stage for the Rams hopes to see much more from the young rusher this past season. Unfortunately, Akers suffered an Achilles Tendon injury that all but removed him from the team’s offense for the season.
The Rams actually suffered injuries to Akers, RB Xavier Jones, RB Raymond Calais, rookie RB Jake Funk, RB Buddy Howell, and an ongoing series of injuries to RB Darrell Henderson Jr. that kept him out of the lineup too frequently for comfort. Only RB Sony Michel, acquired via a trade with the New England Patriots, was consistently healthy through the 2021 NFL season. But his contract expires, and he will likely find a market for his dependable north-south running in the 2022 NFL Free Agent market.
Does LA Rams depth chart lack a feature RB for 2022?
Which brings up to the reason for the article. Even with the expected exodus of Sony Michel, who will be entrusted to carry the football in 2022? The Rams have six running backs slated to start training camp for the 2022 NFL season. But based on the results of 2021, who gets the nod? We know that Xavier Jones, Raymond Calais, and for all intents and purposes, Buddy Howell are complete unknowns for next year.
We know that the LA Rams made use of Jake Funk in special teams through most of the 2021 season, when he was healthy. So the two running backs who are likely to compete for the role of features back in 2022 are Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr., neither of whom has a track record of remaining upright and durable over the course of an NFL season.
And even with the existing stable of running backs, who will fit the need for that physical north-south rushing that was the staple for Malcolm Brown and Sony Michel. Clearly, the LA Rams offense needs that type of rusher. So will the team try to draft for it, or simply re-sign Sony Michel to maintain that vital component to the offense?
What of the Rams current rushers? In the playoffs, Cam Akers averaged 2.6 yards-per-run, Sony Michel averaged 3.1 yards-per-run, and Darrell Henderson Jr. averaged 1.8 yards-per-run. That’s hardly stuff to generate optimism for the 2022 NFL season.
Is this simply an example of bad run blocking, poorly equipped running backs, or a series of stingy run defenses? However you see it, one thing seems clear. The LA Rams need to address their struggle at running the ball this off-season.