Rams plan three-running-backs ‘rotation’ vs. Cowboys, Sean McVay says

Sometimes it says just as much when a coach doesn’t name a starter at a key position.

Monday, with Week 1 upon him, Sean McVay stuck with the Rams’ long-discussed plan for a running-back-by-committee approach instead of anointing a No. 1 ballcarrier to start the season in Todd Gurley’s old role.

McVay said he’s “optimistic” that Darrell Henderson, who missed two weeks of practice with a hamstring pull, will be ready along with Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown to face the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.

“If he is, that’s a three-back rotation that you feel really good about,” McVay said. “Exactly how those carries will be distributed is something we’ll determine really as the week progresses and as the game unfolds.”

Does he know which running back will be on the field for the first series?

“I do not yet,” McVay said before having fun with the question. “We might go with five wides and no backs, or we might go with all three backs on the field and then two other skill guys. You never know.”

Seriously, the message might be: Akers, the 1,100-yard back from Florida State whom the Rams took in the second round with their first pick in the April draft, hasn’t yet shown he can “do it all” like Gurley, the goal the rookie set for himself in a chat with reporters in August.

“Cam is continuing to get better,” McVay said Monday. “You forget sometimes he’s a young player. We are going to ask a lot of him.”

So: Sorry, fantasy owners, it’s hard to recommend a Rams running back this week.

New running backs coach Thomas Brown said in late August that the Rams would prefer to have a “clear-cut guy who takes a majority of reps,” but thought the battle for that role might continue into the season.

McVay said he sees a “balance” between wanting one back to stand out and wanting to exploit the differences among Akers, 2019 third-round pick Henderson, and Malcolm Brown, the fifth-year pro who backed up Gurley.

“I think as the season unfolds, that might give us some clarity if someone separates themselves,” McVay said. “But we’re going to go into it with three different backs, three different skill sets, that present a change of pace and different dynamic that they can present to defenses.

“I think that can help keep people off-balance as well.”

In 2019, the Cowboys (8-8) were tied for eighth in both yards-per-carry allowed (4.1) and yards-per-pass allowed (6.8) in 2019. They have a new head coach in Mike McCarthy and new defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan.

Notes

The Rams usually announce contract extensions in the days before a season. GM Les Snead talked around questions Monday on whether he’d worry if new deals for cornerback Jalen Ramsey and receiver Cooper Kupp are undone as the season opens. Snead said both were “dialed in” in practice. He said the team wouldn’t cut off negotiations when the season starts. …

Justin Hollins, claimed on waivers from Denver on Sunday, was in Rams camp Monday and preparing to suit up against Dallas, Sean McVay said. The Oregon product can play outside and inside linebacker and special teams, and knows Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who was his position coach with the Broncos. …

Raymond Calais’ signing from the Tampa Bay practice squad awaits his physical. The seventh-round pick was a running back and kick returner at Louisiana-Lafayette. McVay likes Calais’ “elite” speed and “great return ability.” The Rams will have to waive somebody to make room for him on the 53-man roster. A spot is open on their practice squad. …