This should be the year for the LA Rams to emphasize the RB position

Los Angeles Rams Cam Akers
Los Angeles Rams Cam Akers / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The NFL is a bit cyclical in their innovative process, and the LA Rams have been at the forefront of NFL innovation of late. It was the LA Rams commitment to the passing game, and the ultimate quest of creating an offense that relied upon five eligibles that turned offensive production upside down. Defenses up to that point were bigger and more powerful, designed to stop power running games that controlled the clock and the scoreboard.

Defensive coordinators needed time, but eventually, they managed to counter the Rams' offense with lighter faster defenses that found it easier to attack the quarterback than to sit back and defend the intricate passing routes conceived by LA Rams HC Sean McVay.

All the while, the Rams' offense has featured running backs less and less. What do I mean? As the LA Rams moved away from feature rusher Todd Gurley, they have not only been a less effective offense, but they've become horrifically predictable as well. Just look back at the top rusher for the LA Rams since HC Sean McVay took over:

  • Year Running back Carries Yards TDs Off Rank (scoring)
  • 2017 Todd Gurley 279 1,305 13 1st
  • 2018 Todd Gurley 256 1,251 17 2nd
  • 2019 Todd Gurley 223 857 12 11th
  • 2020 Cam Akers 145 625 2 23rd
  • 2021 Sony Michel 208 845 4 8th
  • 2022 Cam Akers 188 786 7 27th

Rams let RB role run away from their planning

As you can see from the data table above, there is a correlation between the number of times a feathr back rushes for the LA Rams and the number of yards that back compiles in a season. But even more importantly, the table indicates a correlation between the effectiveness and commitment to the featured running back, and the overall effectiveness of the Rams offense in terms of putting points on the scoreboard.

In the absence of All-22 video footage and master-class LA Rams offensive play breakdowns, it seems logical to conclude that the effectiveness of the Rams offense, an offense that admittedly leans more readily into the passing game, needs that strong and dangerous rushing attack to keep the offense balanced, the defense off-balance, and optimize the ability to score points.

So why not place that date to good use? If the Rams' offense peaked between 260-280 carries by RB Todd Gurley in 16 games, the LA Rams should be planning to feature a running back between 275-300 carries this year. Is that running back Cam Akers, or does this team need a bigger more durable running back? We know that Akers and the LA Rams had difficulties in 2022, but that should be behind them now. We also know that Cam Akers is an excellent pass-blocker.

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Reconfigure offense to optimize rushing effectiveness

The LA Rams offense showed flashes of innovation in the running back role in 2022. The team repositioned WR Ben Skowronek as a lead blocker at times, making use of his bigger-bodied blocking ability to help in opening running lanes. The optics on those plays appeared to be effective.

Should that pave the way for the Rams to consider a more permanent addition to their offensive playbook? As defenses have gotten lighter and faster, the Rams should be countering with bigger bodies and a stronger commitment to a running game. When the Rams went full on in running against the New England Patriots stout defense in 2020, the offense racked up a lot of yards on the ground and won that game handily.

Is it time for the Rams to grab a big back for the offense? Perhaps. I've lobbied long and hard for the team to do so, unsuccessfully. But the evidence for the LA Rams is a pretty compelling argument that the Rams leave points on the football field by committing too heavily to a passing attack against present-day defenses. And with a new coaching staff, many of whom have a more run-oriented background in their resume, it would be an excellent time to put more oomph into the ground game.

The LA Rams are refocusing on the team's foundation. That should not be exclusive to loading up on rookies on the roster. It should also include a renewed emphasis on running the football as well. In 2017, the LA Rams averaged 4.3 yards per run. In 2022, Cam Akers averaged 4.2 yards per run. So how did the Rams end up as the second-best scoring offense in 2017, and the 27th-best scoring offense in 2022? In 2017, Todd Gurley averaged 18 carries per game. In 2022, Cam Akers averaged 11 carries per game. Run more, score more.

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It seems that it could end up being as simple as that.