The Los Angeles went into their Week 7 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers shorthanded as they were without their top two running backs in Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers.
Both Williams and Rivers were placed on injured reserve with ankle and knee injuries, respectively, and thus the Rams had to pivot to other options to replace them. Incumbent Zach Evans was thought to be first in line to start, but Los Angeles brought veteran options into the fold.
The Rams signed Darrell Henderson to the practice squad and later elevated both him and Royce Freeman to the active roster before playing the Steelers. Los Angeles also signed Myles Gaskin off the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad, but he was not brought up on game day.
Sean McVay opted to start Henderson on the Rams’ first offensive series and the running back had no clue that was going to happen, via Stu Jackson of TheRams.com:
“I didn’t know I was going to start the game, but when we got here today, 50-50, every series we was going to be rotating,” Henderson said. “I was just prepared and ready for my ops.”
To get ready during the week, Henderson got as much work in as possible during practice, even going as far as getting additional snaps with the scout team. He said postgame that he felt fine physically.
“I think last week was a toll, but I started to turn over pretty quick,” Henderson said.
Although McVay has changed up some things in the running game, his familiarity with Henderson was probably a major factor in the decision. Henderson’s first game in his second stint with the team was a successful one as he carried the football 18 times for 61 yards and one rushing touchdown.
His first carry of the game went for 16 yards and he looked like healthy on the run as he burst through the gap for the first down. Although Henderson didn’t have much to learn the new playbook, he spent the week getting as many reps in as possible and it paid off against Pittsburgh.
After his performance, it stands to reason that McVay will once again roll with Henderson as the starter in Week 8, and he could be in line for more work after his second debut against Pittsburgh. Freeman had some quality runs as well though, so the Rams certainly have options until Williams and Rivers are able to return.