MAILBAG: Who Will be the Rams' Backup Running Back?

Team insider Myles Simmons answers your Twitter questions as the Rams head into their third preseason matchup of 2018 against the Texans on Sunday.

At this point, I still think Malcolm Brown is in the driver's seat to be the proverbial backup running back. Brown is heading into his fourth NFL season and has proven production at the highest level. When needed, Brown showed he could help the Rams put games away — like againt the Cardinals in London, the Giants in New York, and the Seahawks in Seattle in 2017. 

That said, I definitely see why there's excitement for Kelly. He's shown a nice ability to run the ball in the first two preseason games, highlighted by the 40-yard dash he had against Baltimore. But, he's also got to take care of the football — you can't have fumbles near the goal line, even if you do recover them. 

As for whether Kelly could provide a 1-2 punch with Todd Gurley like the Saints have with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, I wouldn't necessarily bet on that. First off, Ingram and Kamara are an entirely special case since both of them had over 1,500 yards from scrimmage last year. That's fairly unlikely to be replicated — even in New Orleans — for 2018. And when it comes to Gurley, it's going to be hard to take him off the field much given special he is as a player.

But also, L.A. has a bevy of weapons on the outside with wideouts Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Kupp. Head coach Sean McVay's offense is all about matchups. I think Kelly can get time in it, but I'm just not sure about Kamara-level expectations.

At this point, I'd still give Austin Blythe the edge to start the first two games of the season, mainly because Blythe was steady and consistent in the couple of times he had to come in for John Sullivan in 2017. The biggest factor is experience — Blythe is going into his third year in the NFL, as well as his second year in McVay's offense. 

However, third-round pick Joe Noteboom appears to be making a solid case to start at right guard. Run game coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer has been cross-training Noteboom at left tackle and right guard, increasing the rookie's versatility. And Noteboom has done a nice job with it both in practices and in games. That's not the easiest thing to do for a young lineman, particularly one who did not play in a pro-style offense in college. 

Right now, it seems like those are the two candidates. I tend to think there may be a little more clarity for right guard after Saturday's preseason game.

That leads us right to this question. The real answer is: McVay hasn't made an official announcement yet. But given that the starters will be out there, I'd expect to see them play a few series. So that might be a little less than a quarter, the entire first quarter, or maybe a little bit into the second quarter. But I wouldn't expect to see much more of the starters than that before Week 1 against the Raiders. 

The Rams have been very intentional about the way they've practiced during the preseason to get themselves ready for Sept. 10 and beyond. So I wouldn't think they're going to put much at risk when it comes to starters and playing time on Saturday.

Ah yes, we all know what happens when you "assume." 

But at least in this case, I think you're right. Again, McVay hasn't announced exact playing times and I doubt that he will. But It stands to reason that quarterback Sean Mannion will replace Jared Goff in either the first or second quarter. Based on the way things have gone so far this preseason, Mannion seems likely to play the rest of the first half. And then I'd assume we'll see Brandon Allen at QB in the final two quarters. 

As for the second part of your question, I do think the best chance to see Luis Perez in a game will be against the Saints next Thursday. With 90 men on the roster, that fourth preseason game will really be about guys making one final impression before roster cuts. Last year, Los Angeles used Dan Orlovsky at quarterback for the entire game in Green Bay for the fourth preseason game. There's a possibility Perez could be used in a similar manner this year.

This is an interesting question. I think based on the fact that it'll be Goff's second year in the offense and third year in the league, it's reasonable to expect that he'll throw more passes this year than last year. But I think with Gurley's considerable running prowess, those attempts might not go up all that much. 

Assuming everyone stays healthy, I'd have to think that Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Gurley will once again lead the team as its top three in some order. Brandin Cooks could definitely crack that, though. And even if he doesn't, I don't think he'd be far off. L.A. has talked about getting more out of the tight ends, but I don't think that's going to mean too much of a significant increase in the amount of targets the players get. Just in the way the offense seems to function, the ball will be in Gurley's hands the most, and then the hands of the wide receivers.

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