The Super Bowl is mercifully over and now the off-season can officially begin! The Rams are in a tough bind cap-wise, pick-wise, and have a lot of players that aren’t coming back. They also need to re-staff after seemingly the entire league pillaged their coaching staff and on top of that, they traded for Matthew Stafford and need to figure out how best to build around him and maximize their “WIN NOW” window.
One area where the Rams seemingly are set is at the running back position, but at the same time, there’s always room for improvement. Rookie Cam Akers broke out later in the year and Darrell Henderson had success in the earlier part of the season before getting hurt. Malcolm Brown served as a power back and was able to swing a few games early on in the season. Still, after seeing what the Tampa Bay Bucs did to win the Super Bowl, the Rams need to rethink their strategy at running back a little bit.
When the season kicks off, Cam Akers is going to be the starter as well he should be. Akers didn’t get his restrictor-plate taken off until week 12 and breaking out completely in week 14. He was exactly the thing the Rams’ offense had been missing all season as Henderson and Brown were good but not dynamic in the way Akers was. His 625 yards and two touchdowns were a solid foundation to build upon, and barring injury, he is primed to do just that.
In his entire career, Matthew Stafford has only had a 100-yard rusher 11 times so Akers will be an absolute BOON for him. Henderson offers a change of pace, and if he were healthy at the same time, he and Akers would’ve made an electrifying running back duo. With Henderson down, it made life tough on Akers as Brown was the only other back to spell him and Brown doesn’t have the same game-breaking ability Henderson does, while also not being the kind of power back that would serve as a reliable change of pace.
Malcolm Brown started off the season strong. He led the Rams in carries the first two weeks of the season and continued to get the lion’s share of the workload all the way through week 8, where he had 10 carries. As Akers and Henderson got healthy his carries dropped significantly culminating in getting zero carries in their loss to Green Bay. That said, Brown was involved as a receiver because he was a better pass blocker than Akers or Henderson. He was also a favorite target on 3rd and long plays getting screen passes thrown his way. This was an odd choice as Brown isn’t the speediest of backs and by the end of the season, teams saw it coming a mile away. He, unfortunately, is the most expendable of the backs and he’s where the Rams can attempt to improve.
It isn’t clear how they can get better given their aforementioned limited resources. It isn’t likely they use what little draft picks they have on a running back. They could scour the undrafted free-agent market as there are always gems to mine. The free agency market doesn’t necessarily have the kind of power back that the Rams need or at least one that meets their economic situation. Let’s see if Les Snead is able to do some cap Kama Sutra to shift some funds around to give themselves the ability to shop at the 99 cent store rather than the 33 cent store.
It’s possible they bring him back as well and with a healthy three-headed Ghidorah in their running back room they’ll be fine. Especially, if Akers and Henderson can get better at pass blocking so they can be more involved as receivers.
They also have Xavier Jones as another speedy back should health call for it. Still, if the Rams can, they should try to find their own Leonard Fournette (imagine saying that a month ago) who is both a bruiser and can elude tacklers.
The Rams situation at running back is better than most in the league but if they can find an upgrade for Brown there is no telling how dynamic a unit they can be. Regardless of what they’re able to do, that unit gives Matthew Stafford the consistent run support he’s sorely needed his entire career and will allow him to utilize play-action so much more than he’s ever been able to. They have plenty of speed but as Tim Taylor would say, they could always use MORE POWER.