Fragility of 5 Rams veterans can open door for backups to earn starting roles

Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams / Harry How/GettyImages
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III: RB Kyren Williams

It has not escaped my attention that running back Kyren Williams has only suited up and competed in 22 of the possible 34 games in his first two NFL seasons. By many accounts, an NFL player's first two seasons are typically the healthiest in that player's NFL career. If true, then the Rams were incredibly wise to draft RB Blake Corum, a rusher who can conceivably start for the team in 2024 if needed.

The team has witnessed this pattern before when the offense was compelled to limit the workload of running back Darrell Henderson Jr. In his first two seasons with the team, Henderson played in 28 of the team's 32 scheduled games. But he was never able to play in every game of a single season, ultimately suiting up in 50 of the teams 66 games in his first four NFL seasons.

Does Kyren Williams face a similar future?

There is an old proverb that says: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." In the context of durability of smallish running backs, the meaning is pretty straightforward., The Rams learned some painful lessons over the course of former running back Darrell Henderson's injury history. In his first two seasons, the 5-foot-8 208-pound Henderson was injured in four of his first 32 games. But over the span of four seasons, he was unable to play in 16 of 66 games. It was not just his injury history, but the uncertainty of whether he would be ready to play in any given week.

In his first two NFL seasons, the 5-foot-9 194-pound Williams has already missed 12 of 34 games. While we know that he was held out of Week 18 to rest for the 2024 NFL Playoffs, the pattern of a smallish back trending above average on injuries is not the positive trend the team wants to deal with.

Despite suiting up for just 12 games in 2023, he did manage to handle 228 carries for the offense for 1,144 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Those single season number are far better than the team was able to generate with Henderson in the backfield. But can he put up similar numbers in 2024? Or better yet, can he remain healthy for 17 games when doing so? That is the question.