THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Cam Akers finished the second half of his rookie year on a statistical tear, but as the Rams running back enters his second NFL season, it is the ultimate team goal that sits at the top of his mind.
The way Akers sees it, if the team is being successful, it will have a domino effect on his individual success.
"(As far as) my personal goals, everything happens when you win," Akers said during a May 27 video conference. "I just want to win, and everything else that comes with it, I feel like it will be great."
That attitude benefitted him last year.
Akers mostly shared carries with Darrell Henderson Jr. and Malcolm Brown in the backfield, but still finished the season as Los Angeles' leading rusher with 625 rushing yards on 145 carries, edging Henderson's 624 on 138 respectively.
When Henderson got hurt late in the season and Akers handled a bigger workload, Akers seized the opportunity and helped guide L.A. to the divisional round with 46 carries for 221 yards and two touchdowns across both of its playoff games. That came on the heels of recording 110 of 145 carries and 477 of those rushing yards 625 over his final seven regular season games.
Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth witnessed that mindset first-hand, recalling Akers' even-keeled demeanor in huddles last year.
"He's one of the few backs I've been around that has enough to run a play, or have a good play or a bad play or whatever, a game and he's still talking and communicating with the guys," Whitworth said during a June 1 video conference. "Almost kind of a bell-cow in a sense of like, 'Hey, come on guys, let's get this,' or, 'If you guys get a block here, I'm going to make something happen.' He's talking to guys throughout the deal because he's not in any way starstruck, he's just so relaxed back there. ... That's a trait and mentality that shows you he's wired different and he's somebody that expects to perform well, and I think guys are excited to see him do his thing and continue to grow."
Heading into his second season, Akers said he's still putting in the work physically. Mentally, everything has slowed down for him, and he has a better grasp of both the playbook and the blocking schemes incorporated into L.A.'s offense.
According to McVay, the biggest leap Akers can make from Year 1 to Year 2 is "in the detail and what his job entails every single snap."
"The biggest thing that you would talk about is, he's got great natural run instincts, he's really talented as a pass-catcher, it's the nuanced understanding of where you fit in some of the protections when the back is involved," McVay said. "But I think it's just continuing to become more and more complete."
Assuming Akers puts it all together, how might McVay be able to utilize him differently this season compared to last season?
"I think all the ways that you would want to be able to use a running back that doesn't have any limitations," McVay said. "That's, number one, you've got to be able to play on all three downs. He's obviously a great runner, but he's got ability as a pass-catcher coming from the backfield. We can displace and put him in the slot or outside receiver location. And then you know he's got the toughness to stick his face on people in the blitz pick-up face. But understand where you fit and being able to detail up every single snap. There's not any limitations, but we'll see how it comes to life."
Ultimately, the consistency in the focus concentration required snap in and snap out is where McVay said Akers can separate himself as one of the NFL's best running backs.
If Akers establishes that, both he and the Rams will be in good shape this fall.
"I just handle it by taking it day-by-day," Akers said, when asked about going into the season with an anticipated expanded role. "That's the only thing you can do is make sure that you're doing all you can to be at your best for the team. That's what I've been focusing on doing, whether that's being a leader or making plays, just doing what I can do to help this team. Not making it more than what it is."