In five weeks, the Rams have employed a three back running back committee.
Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown kept the backfield going in Akers two week absence. The three-back committee averaged 131 rushing yards a game; Brown and Henderson averaged 91 yards a game in Akers’ absence.
It might seem like Akers is a much-needed addition to the rushing game, but in those first two games, he was only good for about 26 yards per game. Henderson took over starting duties from Akers in his absence, but in a running-back-by-committee, the position is only ceremonial. It’s time for the Rams to use Henderson like a starting running back.
Brown has been the more consistent back, but Henderson has been averaging more rushing yards a game on fewer snaps. Brown is on the field for 56% of the snaps but averages 40.6 yards per game. On the other hand, Henderson is out there for 34.5% of the snaps and averages 52 yards per game.
Henderson is the only Rams’ back this season to have a 100+ yard rushing game. That’s also the only game where Brown and he equally shared the snaps.
In the previous week, Henderson was only on the field for 42% of snaps and ran for 81 yards. Brown had 54% of snaps and ran for 47 yards — a 33-yard difference.
Henderson and Brown had the disadvantage of backing up Todd Gurley last season. Still, running backs aren’t necessary for the Rams’ passing game even this season. Jared Goff doesn’t need more passing options. Throughout the season, he’s thrown to seven different receivers, not including the running backs.
Henderson has shown flashes as a potent receiver. This season, he’s averaged 10.4 yards per reception while Brown averages 2.6 per reception. At Memphis, Henderson averaged more receiving yards per season (256.6) than Brown has had in his six-year career in the NFL (215).
Brown was dominant in week one. He had 79 rushing yards and two touchdowns, but he hasn’t put up the same numbers since then. Henderson has turned into the more reliable back scoring four touchdowns in four games. If you get rid of Henderson’s underutilization in week one, he goes from averaging 52 rushing yards per game to 63.5 yards per game.
Henderson isn’t putting up Gurley’s numbers yet, and I am not suggesting that the Rams deviate from the running back by committee. Henderson and the running game have benefited from the committee approach.
In the past, teams only had to prepare for Gurley; now, they need a response to three different backs with no defined role.
Brown is a superb back, and his consistency makes him deserving of being on the field. Though, it is time for the Rams to start giving Henderson a larger role.
Head Coach Sean McVay had nothing but praise for Henderson when the Rams drafted him in 2019.
“He can obviously do some things as a runner, but the versatility that he provides and some of the things that he can do are what was so enticing about him for us,” he said.
While Akers led the team in rushing yards against Washington, Henderson made it up in the passing game, including a rushing and passing touchdown.
McVay is right – Henderson is the most versatile back the Rams have. He cannot only run, but he can catch too – he needs to be on the field more.
Featured Image: Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post