To say that the Rams offense is in flux is an understatement. They have a lot of talent both on and off the field, no major injuries (knock on wood), and are much better than last year (though it didn’t look that way against Miami). The flip side is they continually shoot themselves in the foot and Sean McVay’s, in particular, playcalling is the prime suspect.
On Sunday they played a bottom tier run defense and yet felt compelled to have Jared Goff throw 61 times, 61! They ran the ball well when they felt like it and yet McVay didn’t want to dominate the clock and it cost them DEARLY.
One of the big questions on offense is, does McVay know Cam Akers exist, and why not use him? Akers was the Rams’ draft pick in 2020 and many expected him to play a big part in the offense and yet he hasn’t. The Rams can run the ball at will and need to involve Cam Akers a lot more if they’re to succeed down the stretch.
When the Rams drafted Cam Akers it was a head-scratcher at first because other more highly touted backs were still on the board such as J.K. Dobbins (taken by Baltimore), but when looking at the Rams it began to make sense. He’s a smaller back that can catch the ball and eludes tacklers. He got some solid carries in week one and looked explosive. In week two, he left the game early with a rib injury and would go on to miss week three. After he came back, McVay seemed to handle him with kid gloves which made a little sense at first but as the weeks have gone on it’s baffling.
What’s especially baffling is that McVay has been more content to feed Malcolm Brown over Cam Akers. Darrell Henderson understandably favors heavily in rotation but Brown over Akers is weird. Yes, Brown is a better blocker but for him to be out there for 177 snaps over Akers 59 (per PFF) and rushing the ball 48 times to Akers 32 is weird. Against Miami, in his limited 9 carriers, Akers caused missed tackles and had moments where he looked like a starter. Brown is a bruising back but doesn’t offer any speed or any real agility.
Brown serves a purpose in short-yardage situations and again is a great blocker but Cam Akers deserves more carries. There hasn’t been any word on the street as to why this is. In fact, McVay intimated that Akers would get a lot of carriers against the Niners after a good showing in Washington. That’s not what happened. Instead, McVay went with the Henderson/Brown combo and elected to throw a lot and rely on his third-down screen that defenses can smell two towns over.
Akers saw ZERO carries in their win against the Bears and only seemed to be utilized in garbage time against the Dolphins. He only has 113 yards rushing for the year and no touchdowns and only has one catch. He hasn’t been listed as injured and there haven’t been any stories about him not grasping the offense or anything to that degree so it’s a mystery.
In a perfect world, McVay would calibrate the offense to run heavy with Henderson and Akers with limited participation from Brown. They would also throw a lot less and allow Goff to be a real threat in play-action situations. That isn’t happening. Akers and Henderson are an explosive tandem that can also catch the ball out of the backfield like Todd Gurley used to do.
He’s also gone away from using his tight ends both in blocking and in passing downs which further impacts the run game. The Rams’ offense feels as though they’re using the first half of the season like an extended preseason because their execution is OFF.
Miami felt like the Rams’ rock bottom offensively and their bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Perhaps with some rest and extended practice time, McVay will lean into his three-headed monster at running back and allow the passing plays to develop organically.
Cam Akers is a talented back and, if healthy, he should be integrated into the offense more because like Henderson, he provides speed and explosion. He can also stretch the field as a receiving threat in screens and can open things up. Perhaps McVay is easing him into things before asking a lot out of him when the schedule gets harder. They play a Seattle defense that has struggled against the run, and even with Carlos Dunlap joining the fray, the Rams have ample opportunity to establish their run game. Here’s hoping watching Goff drown in the Florida swap was the wake-up call Sean McVay needed.