Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay has been one of several coaches bucking the trend this preseason. He has held out his starters, and some key veterans, from action in all games. While this makes for an even more uneventful lead-up into the new season, there is simply no need for Los Angeles to take the risk. However, even without the star power of the first team, one position has made for an entertaining preseason, the battle for backup among the Los Angeles Rams running back corps.
Los Angeles Rams Running Back Battle Heating Up Heading Into Preseason Finale
While there may still be some lingering questions in regards to his health, there are no doubts about his position on the team. Todd Gurley is the starting running back for the Rams, for the duration of his time in Los Angeles. He has more than earned that distinction. However, the questions regarding his health still remain, and even a healthy Todd Gurley may fall into the latest LA trend of “load management.” In addition, the performance of C.J. Anderson at such a critical time for the Rams really highlighted the need for a talented and consistent back-up to Gurley.
This is what makes the Rams current situation at the position fascinating. In addition to Gurley, the Rams boast a backfield with three potential suitors for the RB2 role. Typically, back-ups, unless the quarterback, hardly get talked about. However, with the Rams taking a more cautious approach with Gurley, this year’s back-up running back will likely find himself with significant snaps throughout the season.
The Forgotten Man
The most overlooked man at the position is the incumbent, Malcolm Brown. An injury late in 2018 cost Brown a chance to showcase his talents, opening the door for Anderson. However, entering his fourth year with Los Angeles, Brown remains a favorite of Sean McVay’s. There is no doubt Brown knows what is expected of him in the Rams offense. More importantly, McVay knows what to expect from his veteran running back. Which is likely the reason why Brown, like the other starters, has been held out during the preseason. That itself speaks volumes to the faith he has built up among the coaching staff.
If there is a knock on Brown, it would be his receiving. In this offense, the running back is asked to catch the ball just as well as running it. Brown has 18 catches with a total of 149 yards and one touchdown, over the course of his career. This hasn’t seemed to cost him any snaps so far, so it’s likely he enters the season as the favorite to be Gurley’s understudy.
The player who has generated the most buzz has been third-round pick, Darrell Henderson. In a draft where the Rams traded down several times, they actually moved up in the third round to select the Memphis alum. Henderson, at least so far, has ticked all of the boxes, and looks the most primed to handle the load should Gurley need the rest.
In his last year at Memphis, Henderson rushed for 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also showed off his hands, hauling in 19 catches for 295 yards and three touchdowns. His versatility is what has caught the attention of many who have attended a Rams training camp. While he hasn’t had the flashiest preseason, his 57 yards on 23 carries, especially against stiff competition, has impressed. Henderson may be the talk of camp, but he will be looking to get on the field, and open eyes in 2019.
The Odd-Man Out?
Having the best preseason out of them all, second-year running back John Kelly still faces an uphill climb. Kelly failed to seize his opportunity late last season, with mediocre games, leading to the Rams opting for Anderson. McVay and his staff have remained high on his potential, but with the arrival of Henderson, and a now-healthy Brown to contend with, it is likely Kelly is the one on the outside looking in. There is hope for Kelly, though. Given the Rams’ history at the position it’s likely they keep four on the roster.
Predicted Running Back Depth Chart
It goes without saying that Todd Gurley is the number one running back on the Rams. However, Rams fans can rest easy knowing they have several solid options waiting in the wings. They showed last year that they don’t need a herculean effort at the position. All they need for success is the consistency to keep the defense honest, and someone healthy enough to stay on the field. Malcolm Brown will be given the early nod at RB2. The trust that he has earned with McVay almost assures his place to start. While at RB3, Henderson should still be given opportunities early. It’s unlikely the Rams traded up for him just to watch him sit. If he can impress, he could leapfrog Brown earlier than many expect. Kelly will round out what should be a solid group of running backs. The hope, of course, is that Gurley remains healthy, but it is nice to know you have options.