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Brown Solidifying Role as No. 2 RB

Posted Jul 31, 2017

HC Sean McVay said Monday he’s been pleasantly surprised by Malcolm Brown and the way the running back has performed from the offseason program to now.

Entering training camp, one of the potential position battles appeared to be at No. 2 running back. Benny Cunningham’s departure via free agency left a void at what had been his spot for the last few years.

Lance Dunbar was signed to be a kind of change-of-pace back who can make plays in both the pass and run game out of the backfield. But he opened camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and at last check, head coach Sean McVay said there was no clear timetable for when the running back may return to the field.

“We’re continuing to monitor him,” McVay said Saturday, noting Dunbar is doing exactly what he’s been asked to do. “It is a specific situation with the injury that he did have on that knee a couple years ago. We want to be smart with that. But in terms of a timetable, we don’t have one right now.”

And so the question remains: Has anyone else at running back made a significant impression on the Rams’ head coach?

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Malcolm Brown,” McVay said Monday. “He’s kind of got a quiet confidence about himself where he just goes about his business. He’s very reliable, knows exactly what to do and how to do it. And he’s a guy that we can depend on.”

Originally signed as an undrafted rookie out of Texas in 2015, Brown spent most of his first pro season on the practice squad before being called up for the Rams’ Week 17 matchup against San Francisco. In 2016, Brown was mainly a special teams contributor throughout the 16-game slate, but recorded 39 yards on 18 carries and 46 yards on three receptions.

In addition to Brown, McVay mentioned second-year running back Aaron Green and undrafted free agent — and USC product — Justin Davis as players who have “shown some flashes.”

But there may be some changes coming to the No. 2 running back role compared to the past few years. For his first two seasons, starting running back Todd Gurley has mainly been used on first and second down, with Cunningham coming in on third down. How much Gurley will be used as a three-down back remains to be seen, but McVay has consistently called Gurley “a complete back.”

“That’s how we feel as a coaching staff,” he said Monday.

With that, pass protection will be an emphasis for Gurley — just as it is with any running back.

“We’ll ask different things with him and our backs in general from protection,” McVay said. “[W]ith putting the pads on, you can do a little more physicality drills, and turn to some of the one-on-one linebacker-running back pass rush and continue to work those fits. But just with any other back — and Todd’s no different — we will definitely have pass protection as an emphasis for those guys.”

As the Rams continue training camp with their first padded practice tomorrow afternoon, a practice with the Chargers on Saturday, and then the club’s first preseason game on August 12, the depth chart at running back will continue to take shape. With six running backs currently on the roster, this should be a competitive position for the 53-man roster. But at least for now, Brown appears to be the clear No. 2 behind Gurley.

“I think those two guys have really stood out in terms of Todd being the lead dog, being the epitome of what we want it to look like from that leader and that group,” McVay said. “And I think Malcolm has done a nice job of establishing himself as that secondary role.”