Although the offense may have fallen short of expectations in the 2020 NFL season, the Los Angeles Rams were able to take solace in the emergence of running back Cam Akers.
The Rams had a notable void to fill in the backfield with the departure of Todd Gurley in the offseason so they opted to take Akers with the 52nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Sean McVay indicated early on that the rookie would be joining a committee alongside Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown.
Despite strong performances from Henderson and Brown out of the gate, it was only a matter of time before the rookie took over as the clear-cut workhorse in the run game. It seems McVay has plans to keep the ball rolling in the 2021 NFL season.
The Rams shook things up under center with the acquisition of quarterback Matthew Stafford. Regardless, McVay envisions Akers taking on an integral role in this offense, per Nick Shook of NFL.com:
“You saw Darrell Henderson step up, Malcolm Brown was really consistent throughout the year, but Cam hit his stride at the right moments,” McVay said Thursday. “You could see he’s always had a real and authentic confidence, but then as he’s getting more and more comfortable for the different ways that we were able to utilize him, I think he can come alive in the pass game. I think he can continue to play at a high level. Really, I think he’s an every-down back. I think he’s a special player.”
It is safe to say that McVay’s optimism is well-warranted given Akers’ performance during the 2020 campaign. Despite getting off to a slow start after missing three games due to injury, he still finished as the team’s leading rusher with 625 yards and two touchdowns on 145 carries.
Akers’ rookie campaign was highlighted by a 29-carry, 171-yard performance against the New England Patriots in Week 11. He followed it up by rushing for 221 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries in the postseason where he had already become a focal point in the offense.
Akers was not as active in the passing game after hauling in just 11 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown. With Stafford in town, McVay’s comments indicate that he will likely get an opportunity to put his versatility on display as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
The onus will ultimately fall on assistant head coach/running backs coach Thomas Brown to ensure that Akers is ready to take that next step as an every-down back.