The LA Rams fans have been pooh-poohing the late-season surge by LA Rams running back Cam Akers. Despite the fact that Akers, coming off an Achilles Tendon injury just one year earlier, rushed for over 100+ yards in three consecutive games, many fans had already checked out and were already looking forward to the 2023 NFL Draft, and the next season.
In case you missed it, RB Cam Akers had a dispute with the team over his workload/usage and was promptly benched and placed on the trade block. When no takers appeared, LA Rams head coach Sean McVay reconciled with Akers, and despite the patchwork offensive line, he began to come back to life.
In the meantime, the Rams released both RB Darrell Henderson Jr. and RB Coach Ra’Shaad Samples. In the final six games of the season, RB Cam Akers ran with the confidence and authority of his rookie season:
Seahawks 17 runs 60 yards 2 TDs
Raiders 12 runs 42 yards 1 TD
Packers 12 runs 65 yards 0 TD
Broncos 23 runs 118 yards 3 TDs
Chargers 19 runs 123 yards 0 TDs
Seahawks 21 runs 104 yards 0 TDs
Totals 104 runs 512 yards 6 TDs 4.92 YPC
Over the course of a full season, that is well over 1000 yards. In fact, he would have landed as the fourth-ranked running back in the NFL. Most of all, this was behind a patchwork offensive line with a just-added free-agent quarterback. In short, opposing defenses knew that he was the best offensive weapon on the LA Rams roster, and yet he got stronger and stronger.
Akers has a career year ahead of him
His streak of three consecutive games of 100+ yards rushing is just one game shy of the mark set by rookie running back Todd Gurley. If Akers rushes for 100+ yards in the first game of the 2023 NFL season, he will in fact tie Gurley.
At 5-foot-10 and 217 pounds, Akers may not seem to fit the big-bodied powerful running back that Mike LaFleur landed in rookie Breece Hall. But LaFleur will no doubt quickly learn to appreciate the passion and competitive spirit that burns in Akers.
Unlike Coen’s undertaking to fold talented but unworked players Jacob Harris and Tutu Atwell into meaningful roles in the Rams offense in 2022, LaFleur’s purpose is much simpler but much more demanding. The Rams must find a way to become a Top-10 NFL offense once more, and the only way this team does that is to get Cam Akers the ball and let him run.
The move to hire LaFleur quickly suggests that HC Sean McVay wants someone on the coaching staff to challenge him in his tendency to fall behind and then just light up the skies with a non-stop aerial assault. The Rams did, in fact, stick to their running game plan in 2020, as the team nearly came from behind to defeat the Buffalo Bills.
Akers is already poised for a great 2023 NFL season. As the LA Rams’ new OC, LaFleur will only enhance his upside in 2023. That is not to say that the Rams will decline to add a big running back in the draft. But as far as the Rams shrinking in the running back department? I think those days are over. The Rams want a bigger contribution from their rushing attack, and Cam Akers will play a huge factor in that improvement for 2023.