Who Can Complement Cam Akers?
The LA Rams made the first significant move this offseason. Los Angeles traded Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third for Matthew Stafford. The 12-year veteran is an upgrade on Goff, who struggled in 2020. After making a trade like this, the Rams firmly believe they are in a championship window. So the team should double-down and strengthen where they can.
The Bucs did it to devastating effect in 2020 as they added Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski to a loaded roster. NFL teams are now applying the loading up theory. It is the same idea that NBA and MLB teams deploy when deciding to go all-in for a championship run.
The Rams are in that mode. With Stafford, Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald all on the roster, the Rams own the A-list stars. To overhaul Green Bay and Tampa in the NFC, they must now add supplementary cast members who play a vital role.
Running back is an excellent position to target because it is so critical to Sean Mcvay’s offense. 2018 displayed that correctly as Todd Gurley drag the Rams to the Super Bowl. The running-back market is fascinating this year; several players can add a ton of value to LA. With a genius play-caller in Mcvay, the right signing could make this offense even deadlier.
Leonard Fournette rumbled his way to an excellent bounce-back year in Tampa. The big LSU man restored his reputation as he demonstrated superb skill at running the ball. Fournette gets gritty yards in short-yardage situations. Not only is that a critical strength of his, but he can also bounce outside and use his acceleration to gain more yards. That makes him an elegant complementary piece for Cam Akers.
The rookie back showed plenty of promise in his freshman year. However, he didn’t prove that he is a bell-cow. The Rams will employ a running-back committee to spearhead their rushing attack. A completely different athlete from Akers will pose new problems for the defense.
With Fournette in the backfield, Mcvay can use Akers creatively. He could use him as a receiving option, a decoy or use both backs on hard play-action passes. Mcvay said that he wished to call more shot-plays with Stafford; owning a two-headed monster in the backfield allows Mcvay more scope to design and call those plays.
Is it time for the bus to get a new destination on its route. The bruising Gus Edwards could fill the physical north-south runner role that they require. Edwards is a punishing runner who breaks tackles and carries players with him. That style is an excellent foil for Akers and the Rams.
LA desires to play out of play-action. Owning a destructive runner who can hold the defense for a split-second is all that LA needs. Stafford’s arm allows him to zip the ball in tight windows; if LA can establish a bruising running game, Stafford could run wild if he gets open throwing windows.
The other situation Edward’s can really help out in is goal-line circumstances. The big-bodied could stay in pass protection, act as a blocker or run it up the middle. Gus Edwards plays like a full-back with the added capability of running.
He is a unique chess piece for Mcvay to use, either with Akers or without. With a player like Edwards, it opens up Mcvay’s playbook. Plus, he can use Edwards in split tight-end formations to confuse the defense and the SAM linebacker.
NFL offenses are jigsaw puzzles; sometimes, the non-obvious option can fit. That’s because all the pieces must work together as one big picture; Edwards’ physicality and versatility can do that for the Rams.
In real life, familiarity can breed contempt. In the NFL, however, it is a huge advantage. With practices and offseason training carefully monitored, it is hard for new players to adapt quickly to a new team. The lack of pre-season games doesn’t help either. Therefore, familiarity is an advantage. That’s why Jerick McKinnon is a smart consideration for LA.
The player understands how Mike Shanahan’s protege’s want to play on offense. He spent two years working with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. Therefore, he will appreciate the Rams playbook. At 29, he isn’t old; he can be the experienced player in the room helping Akers.
McKinnon is a bigger, rangier back, and he can see action if LA wishes to go to a more physical ground game. Plus, his acceleration is excellent. McKinnon can bounce to the edge on outside-zone reads that let him use his legs to motor. He is bigger than most defensive backs; with the momentum, he will run over them.
McKinnon provides real razzle-dazzle to an offense. He can execute the exotic, funky plays out of a playbook exceptionally well. That, in turn, creates more mismatches on offense.
With a veteran quarterback under center, the offense could be one step ahead of the defense. That is critical when it comes to succeeding in the NFL on offense in 2021.