The Los Angeles Rams sit poised for a special 2021 season with an opportunity to contend for the Super Bowl. However, the buzz around the Rams took a significant hit last month after Cam Akers’ season-ending injury. After initial pushback toward the idea, Los Angeles finally bolstered the backfield through the help of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
Cam Akers suffers season-ending Achilles tendon injury
The Rams’ hype train took a hit last month after Akers suffered a torn Achilles tendon.
Akers was primed to take over as the primary workhorse option after a promising rookie campaign. He posted 625 rushing yards and two touchdowns, along with 11 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. It featured a standout performance against the Patriots, where he notched 194 total scrimmage yards. His 171 rushing yards in the contest marked the most by a Rams’ rookie a single game since Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis in 1993 (212 yards).
The Florida State product followed it up with a strong showing in the playoffs, recording 272 total scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in two playoff games. It included Akers notching 131 rushing yards and a touchdown in the wildcard road win over the Seattle Seahawks.
As the 2021 regular season quickly approaches, the Rams finally chose to revamp the backfield after some help from Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Rams finally address a pressing need thanks to Bill Belichick and the Patriots
Since Akers’ injury, the Rams elected to roll with in-house options.
However, the team recently saw veteran Darrell Henderson Jr. suffer a thumb injury that will keep him off the field until Week 1 action in the 2021 regular season. The Rams’ battered backfield led general manager Les Snead to snag running back Sony Michel from the New England Patriots in a trade in exchange for conditional fifth and sixth-round selections.
Michel’s availability likely came about due to the stellar preseason play of Rhomandre Stevenson, who posted 193 rushing yards and four touchdowns while averaging 7.7 yards per carry in the first two preseason games. The Patriots also possess significant depth, with James White and Damian Harris taking up playing time.
Michel can immediately step in to provide much-needed depth behind Henderson. The Georgia product has 2,292 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in 28 starts through his first three seasons. The former 2018 first-round pick struggled to find his footing last season due to injury and inconsistent play.
He missed six games in 2020 after being placed on the injured reserve due to a quadriceps injury. Michel posted 449 rushing yards on 79 carries with a touchdown in nine games played. The fresh start in Los Angeles could reignite his NFL career as he posted north of 900 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons.
Michel is in the final year of his rookie deal slated to make $1.79 million as the Patriots previously elected not to exercise his fifth-year $4.5 million option for the 2022 season. In other words, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move for the Rams that could significantly bolster the backfield.
Matthew Stafford will dictate the Rams’ fate in 2021
The Rams’ acquisition of Michel provides much-needed depth, but the focus remains on Matthew Stafford leading the charge.
Los Angeles moved all its chips in with Stafford to elevate the franchise to a level that Jared Goff couldn’t over the last two seasons. The 33-year-old will have full autonomy of the offense, while the hope is that his pairing with head coach Sean McVay will lead to a highly productive campaign.
Stafford possesses a plethora of offensive weapons around him with wide receivers Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, and tight end Tyler Higbee. Los Angeles also holds one of the league’s top defenses, returning largely the same group from last season.
The Rams have the stiff challenge of playing in arguably the toughest division, but the team has the pieces to become a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Ultimately, it’s on Stafford’s shoulders to prove to be the x-factor that lifts the Rams toward those lofty expectations.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.