IRVINE, Calif. – Last season, Darrell Henderson Jr. was the Rams' No. 1 running back for a few games due to injuries to eventual leading rusher Cam Akers . In wake of Akers tearing his Achilles last week, Henderson will be tasked with taking on the lead role again, and is prepared to do so.
"If it's on me, then I'm ready for it," Henderson said after Friday's practice.
Henderson said the last time he had the role was when he suited up South Panola (Mississippi) High. He estimates he was given "about 30" touches per game. Looking at his stats, it wasn't hard to see why: He rushed for 2,253 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior, helping him finishing his high school career averaging 109.5 rushing yards per game and 6.8 yards per carry.
The former University of Memphis standout also had a taste of that workload last year against the Bills in Week 3, the first of two games Akers missed due to a rib injury. He finished with 20 carries for 114 yards and one touchdown in a 35-32 Rams loss.
"I would just go out and play," Henderson said, when asked what he took away from that two-game stretch. "Do me and play the game the way I play it and trust the other guys on the field with me."
As Henderson gets set to resume the role, McVay's mission is to figure out the right balance of maximizing Henderson's skillset/talents while keeping him healthy. Henderson understands the importance of running backs staying fresh at this level, so he's fine with Los Angeles rotating its younger running backs in. And he was still effective the last time he shared a backfield – splitting carries in college, he rushed for 3,545 yards and 36 touchdowns on 431 attempts across three seasons, adding 63 receptions for 758 yards and eight touchdowns in the passing game.
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"I think he's got the ability, there's no doubt about it," Rams head coach Sean McVay said after Friday's practice. It's really just kind of figuring out what's going to be the best, I don't want to say pitch count, but the best way to utilize him and really have the big picture in mind. He's our most established guy without a doubt."
While ready to make the most of the opportunity, Henderson also feels for Akers.
"I mean I never want to see a player get hurt, and me coming off two ankle surgeries, it's just horrible," Henderson said. "When I heard that I immediately looked down at mine, because I'm like let me make sure your mine are still good. It's just horrible to see him go out like that, and we're going to dedicate this year for him."