The defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams will receive a massive boost via the return of running back Cam Akers for (presumably) the entire season. Akers is expected to start in the backfield during Thursday’s regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills. A healthy Akers makes the Rams’ offense a balanced and unpredictable unit.
Many are underrating Akers following last year’s devastating Achilles injury. Akers somehow managed to return less than six months after suffering the setback. General expectations are currently too low for Akers in 2022. Akers should account for the first 1,000-plus yard rushing season of his career.
Akers will receive his first opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong against a Bills defense that allowed a middling 109.8 yards per contest last season. Akers is anxious for Thursday’s showcase to mark its arrival.
“I know I’m healthy,” Akers said on Monday. “I’m not trying to show anybody that I’m healthy. I’m just going to play my game,” Akers concluded.
Those sleeping on Akers are investing too much stock into how the Jackson, Mississippi native wrapped up the 2021 campaign. Akers was largely ineffective upon his triumphant return from the Achilles injury. Akers averaged a pedestrian 2.6 yards per carry throughout Los Angeles’ four postseason contests. Akers lacked general explosiveness and showed clear signs of rust. In Week 18, his lone regular-season appearance, Akers handled five carries for three years.
A slow start was understandable given the adversity Akers was forced to overcome. Akers is nearly 14 months removed from the torn Achilles tendon (July 20, 2021) and has shown no lingering signs or setbacks. Akers doesn’t appear on the Rams’ Week 1 injury report. It strongly indicates the former Florida State product is a full go.
Rams head coach Sean McVay prefers to utilize one primary back when afforded an opportunity. The Rams are unlikely to begin the season in that manner given Akers’ return-to-play timeline. A rotation that involves Darrell Henderson Jr. is likelier, but Akers should eventually separate himself.
Akers led the Rams in rushing during his rookie campaign in 2020, accounting for team-highs in carries (145) and yards (625), showcasing a natural skill set in McVay’s system. Akers appeared poised for a breakout sophomore campaign when the injury struck. Expect Akers to retake his rightful place as the Rams’ backfield leader in 2022.
Henderson is entering his fourth season and has yet to prove capable of playing a bellcow role. Injuries have limited Henderson’s ceiling as well. In 2021, he appeared in 12 regular-season contests after suffering an MCL sprain in late December. Henderson also missed Los Angeles’ first three postseason contests. He was a non-factor in the Super Bowl, rushing for seven yards on four attempts. It’s a fate-deciding contract season for Henderson, who should comfortably trail Akers as the season progresses. Henderson hasn’t reached his pre-draft expectations for a third-round selection out of Memphis in the 2019 NFL Draft. His future likely resides elsewhere.
Los Angeles’ lack of backfield depth behind Akers and Henderson indicates they’ll be most involved. Kyren Williams is a fifth-round rookie out of Notre Dame. Jake Funk is primarily a special teams player. There’s little standing in the way of Akers capturing a starring role.
Akers has been afforded ample time to regain health and form. McVay’s zone-based rushing attack allows Akers to be efficient. A career-best season appears on the horizon.
- Oct 03, 2022
- Oct 03, 2022