Sean McVay Discusses How Rams Will Utilize New Running Backs Against Steelers
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6, but it came at a cost as they suffered injuries in the backfield.

Kyren Williams suffered an ankle sprain that will force him to potentially miss multiple weeks, while Ronnie Rivers was placed on injured reserve after spraining his PCL.

With the running back room hurting, rookie Zach Evans is expected to see an elevated role though the Rams also brought in reinforcements in Royce Freeman, Darrell Henderson and Myles Gaskin.

Evans got four carries against Arizona and figures to be the starter against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Sean McVay wouldn’t commit to the rookie just yet.

“I wouldn’t say that,” McVay said when asked if Evans will be the team’s lead back. “We’ve got the week to be able to evaluate and I would say all four of those guys are possibilities and we’re truly navigating through that. But I was pleased with what Zach did towards the latter part of the game.”

Trusting Evans to lead the backfield is a risky proposition and McVay explained why the team decided to bring in Henderson and Gaskin.

“Darrell, the familiarity. I’ve always really loved working with Darrell. Smart, conscientious…When he’s played, he’s been really productive whether it be as a runner, as a pass catcher. He’s never been afraid to stick his face on people in protection. He has an understanding and a nuanced understanding of what we’re doing. Even just in the walkthrough, he was able to pick some things up quickly, really coachable. He’s a smart player and so it’s good to be able to get Darrell back. I always really enjoyed working with Darrell.

“And then Myles, I don’t know Myles really that well. So I’m looking forward to kind of being able to see him work. I’ve seen him from afar, whether it was with Miami, and then I’ve heard some different things from Kevin (O’Connell) and (Vikings Offensive Coordinator) Wes (Phillips) and then (Asst. Head Coach) Jimmy Lake was with him at Washington and so that’s really all I know. I’ll probably be better equipped to answer that later on this week.”

Integrating inexperienced or new running backs is going to be a challenge for McVay, so it’ll be interesting to see how the run game looks against the Steelers.

He would later reveal on Friday that Henderson will be elevated to the active roster although McVay still wouldn’t give much insight into how the rotation will look on Sunday.

“I liked what I saw from all four of those guys this week,” McVay said. “Darrell came back in, he’s a guy that’s going to be up and active this week. He’s done a great job of being able to quickly re-acclimate himself back to a lot of the things that we’ve done, he’s taking good care of himself in the meantime. And I have been pleased with Royce. He’s smart, conscientious, he’s been ready for this opportunity. Zach’s a guy that’s continuing to learn and then Myles Gaskin, being in Minnesota, being in Miami, there is some familiarity and he’s got a skill set that’s intriguing. I liked what I’ve seen from him. So there’s a possibility we’d have all four guys up. And then if not, then we’ll go with three. And we’re really still working through, truthfully, who those three would be between those four guys, and we might have all four of them up.”

Sean McVay describes what he’s seen from Zach Evans so far

Evans was a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school and was considered to be one of the best running backs in his class. McVay discussed what he’s seen from him so far to give him confidence that he’ll be ready to handle a larger opportunity.

“I think it was just that. I think (Offensive Coordinator) Mike (LaFleur) did a good job. It’s probably Michael LaFleur that he was talking about that ended up doing a nice job being able to point him out but I certainly have seen the same things. (Running Backs Coach) Ron (Gould) challenges those guys in that room and I think when you look at it, whether it be scout team or being locked in in the walkthroughs, just being intentional about getting better. How do I approach my craft every single day, whether it be running our plays, whether it be running the opposing team’s plays to try to help give a simulated look for the defense in preparation for the upcoming opponent? He’s gotten better and I think he’s done the same thing with (Special Teams Coordinator) Chase (Blackburn) and (Asst. Special Teams) Jeremy Springer on special teams or if he’s given looks for the special teams.

“And then I was pleased with his opportunities that he got the other day. It’s in a different scenario when you’re just kind of really just closing out the game and it’s known run situations but I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles this week because it is different. It’s very different in terms of looking at a card and then running our offense where (QB) Matthew’s communication in the huddle and all the different things that he can do relative to the tools he has at his disposal. And so it’ll be a good challenge, but I’m confident that he’ll handle it well.”