How can the LA Rams mix the rushing of Kyren Williams and Royce Freeman most effectively?

The Rams have a chance to win in Week 12 with 2 potent running backs queued to compete. But how can the LA Rams mix the rushing of Kyren Williams and Royce Freeman most effectively?

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams, Kyren Williams
Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams, Kyren Williams / Harry How/GettyImages
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The last time that the LA Rams competed against the Arizona Cardinals, the two teams clashed on Sunday, October 15, 2023. In that game, the Rams rode the unstoppable rushing of running back Kyren Williams to one of the team's most impressive wins of the season. The final score of Week 6 was 26-9, a score that would restore the Rams to a 3-3, .500 record. It was also the last victory that the Rams would enjoy before their Week 10 BYE.

In that game, Williams rushed 20 times for 158 yards and one touchdown. It was his dominating rushing that allowed the Rams offense to open up their entire playbook, including play-action passing that afforded starting quarterback Matthew Stafford to exhibit surgical precision as he dissected the Cardinals secondary for 226 yards and a touchdown.

Well, the two teams clash once more in Week 12. While many expect the Cardinals to be pushovers, I am not of that opinion. Arizona Cardinals' new head coach Jonathan Gannon knows that the LA Rams are a team he must face twice a season, so a win in 2023 will carry significant value into 2024. The Cardinals also have welcomed back starting quarterback Kyler Murray, who helped the Cardinals win their second game of the season, a road win against the Atlanta Falcons.

How can the Rams optimize blending Williams and Freeman?

Thankfully, the Cardinals are not the only team welcoming back an offensive star. The LA Rams will be welcoming back running back Kyren Williams, the rusher who last played in that dominating win against the Cardinals. While Williams was out, the Rams could only muster a record of 1-3.

The lone win was due in part to the Rams' discovery of another workhorse rusher, veteran RB Royce Freeman. The Rams finally turned Freeman loose, allowing him to carry the football a season-high 17 times. Freeman responded with a punishing 73 rushing yards performance. Once again, with an effective running game, the Rams play-action passing got hot in the second half of a Week 11 win against the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for the victory.

So how can the Rams offense allow both Royce Freeman and Kyren Williams to coexist in Week 12?

Run Royce, then run Kyren

The challenge is not a Rubik's Cube, and should not be treated as such. The Arizona Cardinals have seen Kyren Williams before, and have no reason not to prepare to face Williams in Week 12. That's why the Rams need to soften up their defense with a power running game by harnessing Royce Freeman in the first quarter.

In 11 games, the Cardinals rushing defense allows 132.1 yards per game, only good enough for the 26th-ranked run defense in the NFL. Compare that to a Cardinals pass defense that allows just 217.5 passing yards per game, Facing that defense, the Rams had better plan to optimize their rushing first, and then deploy play-action passing to activate the passing game.

The Cardinals cannot anticipate the Rams tapping Royce Freeman to run the football, which is exactly why the Rams should do so. With Freeman's powerfurl strides, even if he is stopped for minimal gains, he takes the starch out of any defender involved in tackling him. And after Freeman has softened up the defense, then the Rams can send in Kyren Williams, already knowing where the Cardinals defense is most vulnerable to a speedy runner.

The LA Rams need this win. But the team will not win just by appearing. This is going to be a tough win for the Rams, and one that the Rams must do an incredible job of strategizing how to take advantage of a Cardinals team that is eager to turn the corner. If the Rams run Royce Freeman first to soften up the Cardinals defense, and then attack them with Kyren Williams, the Rams can improve to 5-6.

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