When it comes to figuring out how to replace the production of former starting running back Todd Gurley, Rams head coach Sean McVay views the job as not one player's alone but rather a group effort instead.
Plans may change, of course, if a hot hand emerges and earns increased opportunities, per McVay's comments on The Helliepod with sports broadcaster Dan Hellie earlier this summer. For now, though, McVay – and Los Angeles' running backs – are content with having a committee approach to the backfield and being patient defining roles.
"We're really just excited to see how that room kind of expresses itself as we really get into it," McVay said earlier this month.
For McVay and running backs coach Thomas Brown, training camp will be the first opportunity to figure out how to best allocate the 223 carries – roughly 56 percent of the team's rushing attempts last season – opened up by Gurley's departure this spring amongst sixth-year veteran Malcolm Brown, third-year pro John Kelly, second-year pro Darrell Henderson and rookie Cam Akers.
Malcolm Brown was Gurley's backup for the last three years, and even in a reserve role last season, the 27-year-old contributed 69 rushing attempts for 255 and five touchdowns. Each of his five rushing scores came inside the five-yard line, making him a valuable option near the goal line.
"Whatever role that these guys have us playing man, I know that all of us will buy into it," Brown said during an Aug. 10 video conference. "We got a lot of different versatile guys, we all have our own skillsets. I know that these coaches will do the best that they can, I know that they'll do a really good job of putting us in position to succeed."
There is one clearly defined role within the running back room already, for Brown at least: Leader. Brown understands that as the most-experience member of the backfield, he has to "do my best to bring these young guys along."
"I know I've been in this offense longer than anybody and then with the great addition that we have with Coach Thomas Brown, just to be an extra set of eyes, be an extra example for these young guys to play off," Brown said.
Henderson was a recipient of some of that mentorship as a rookie last season and had to put it to use in the middle of the season. He logged 22 of his 39 carries and 119 of his 147 rushing yards across Weeks 6, 7 and 8 while Gurley and Brown dealt with injuries. That same stretch also afforded him the opportunity to show what he could do in the passing game – his four receptions for 37 yards on the season all came during that span.
"I feel like the opportunities is there and everybody will get an opportunity, it's just up to you to capitalize on your opportunity," Henderson said during a June 10 video conference. "I think we're all going to have a role, everybody's just got to be prepared for their role."
Akers, meanwhile, views himself as a complete back, and has the stats and examples to back up the claim.
He tallied 586 rushing attempts for 2,874 yards for 27 touchdowns in three years at Florida State, adding 69 catches for 486 yards and seven scores in the passing game. He also said he tried to model his game after players like New Orleans' Alvin Kamara, Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott and Minnesota's Dalvin Cook – players who excel at running the ball, catching and blocking.
After getting drafted by the Rams in April, Akers said he brings a "three-down, four-down back if necessary to the team." Even if that isn't role, he has faith in however Los Angeles' coaches choose to employ him and the rest of the running backs.
"I just want to do whatever I can to help the team," Akers said on Aug. 11. "Whatever coach McVay thinks is the best option for the team, that's what we are going to roll with, and we are going to do to it 100 miles per hour."