In 2020, the LA Rams running back by committee group had the loosely associated nickname of Run DMC. That stood for their trio of NFL running backs named Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, and Cam Akers. That trio led the ground game to move the football ahead for over 2000 yards last season and led Rams rushers to cross the plane of the goal line 19 times. That was an impressive performance by a group whose top rusher ended at 625 yards for the year.
Well, the LA Rams have a trio of running backs once more. But in 2021, that ground game only advanced the football for just over 1600 yards. And the scoring was nearly half of what it was on the ground in 2020, crossing the plane just ten times this year.
So things are pretty bleak for the LA Rams running game? Au contraire, mon frère. Let’s do a little digging.
Volume speaks volumes
Starting off the comparison, let’s take a look at raw opportunities
2020 Atts Yards TDs YPC
Cam Akers 145 625 2 4.3
D. Henderson 138 624 5 4.5
M. Brown 101 419 5 4.1
Others 65 350 7 5.4
2021 Atts Yards TDs YPC
Cam Akers 5 3 0 0.6
D. Henderson 149 688 5 4.6
S. Michel 208 845 4 4.1
Others 55 150 1 2.7
What do you see happening here? Well, in terms of scoring, the offense ran far fewer QB Sneaks on short-yardage and goal to go. Darrell Henderson was consistent in both seasons. The shortfall this season had two significant contributors. The first factor was the fact that the Rams failed to get Michel active in the offense soon enough. As a result, he was 200 yards and three touchdowns shy of the combined production of both Akers and Brown from a year ago.
Curiously, a significant shortcoming this year was the absence of Robert Woods and Jared Goff in the running game. In 2020, the pair combined for 254 yards and six touchdowns. This year, Matthew Stafford and Woods combined for 89 yards and one touchdown. So what does that do for us?
Cam Akers is back, baby
When the LA Rams announced that Cam Akers would carry the football against the San Francisco 49ers, the intention was nothing more than to test Akers’ ability to run at the NFL level. His five carries for three yards likely deepened some fans’ misery after the game. But those same 49ers held the Dallas Cowboys rushing attack, led by Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, to 17 carries and 50 yards. an average of just 2.94 yards per rush.
Now, the Arizona Cardinals are not the 49ers folks. Their defense has been constructed to stop passing offenses. That’s how that defense allowed Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penney to scorch them on 23 carries for 190 yards and a touchdown. Now, nobody expects Cam Akers to put up those numbers, but even 95 yards on 18 carries will be plenty of ground game to slow down the Cardinals pass rush.
How bad are the Cardinals at rush defense? That defense allowed an average of 4.6 yards per rush, which is the 26th-ranked run defense in the NFL. Not sure how much of the rock Akers can handle? Well good news, folks. He’s not alone.
The Rams have got a couple of seasoned running backs in Darrell Henderson Jr. and Sony Michel. Between the three of them, the Rams have the ability to gain ground running the football against nearly any defense. The trick has been getting the offense to run the ball. I expect that will happen now.
EDITOR’s NOTE: The LA Rams indicated that they would place Darrell Henderson on IR on December 28, 2021, for an estimated 3-5 weeks. Three weeks have elapsed, and the Rams’ official website lists RB Darrell Henderson on the active roster. While that may be simply a clerical error, we listed Henderson in this article as portrayed on the Rams roster.
In two playoff games last year, the LA Rams averaged 31 runs for 123 yards and a touchdown per game. I would be surprised if the Rams did not try to help out their defense by trying to move the chains with a bit more emphasis on a rushing attack.
The Rams are back in the playoffs. Let’s hope they stay healthy and advance to the next round.
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