Once the smoke had cleared from all the free agent signings, trades and draft picks, the NFC hierarchy seemed pretty clear. The Packers (only if Aaron Rodgers is under
center), the Buccaneers (who miraculously bring back the entire Super Bowl winning team) and the Rams were the class of the NFC. Of the three, the Rams appeared to be the big dog that everyone would be looking up to, especially after securing the services of a big armed QB in Matt Stafford.
As good as the Packers and Buccaneers are, the Rams have the best corner in the league in Jalen Ramsey, the best overall defensive player in the league in Aaron Donald, an offensive line that can match up with any in the NFL, a wide receiving corps with possibly the best hands in the league, and a young running back who just served notice after his rookie season that he was ready to climb the pantheon of the top backs in the league.
That was until the young stud was training before camps open next week. In one fateful minute, the Rams went from class of the NFC to question marks in the uber tough NFC West, when Akers tore his Achilles and will miss the 2021 season.
While they should still be considered a strong candidate for the playoffs, a backfield now led by Darryl Henderson doesn’t strike the same fear into the hearts of opposing defenses and makes the Rams a much tougher sell to make it to their home field for the Super Bowl in early 2022.
But before we shovel all the dirt on top of the Rams, is there anyone out there that can still put this team back into the upper echelon of NFC teams?
The quick answer to that question is yes, and while none may be as explosive or dynamic as Akers, here are three free agent backs the Rams could sign to keep them as the team to beat in the
1 – Todd Gurley – While he is no longer the back he was during his last stint in LA, getting Gurley would make for an easy transition. He knows the playbook (for the most part) and the terminology, and he would fit in seamlessly. He isn’t going to be a bellcow back, but if you keep him as fresh as possible, you should still be able to get some solid performances.
2 – Adrian Peterson – When he made his way over to the Lions last season, he proved that he was not totally washed up. He is a shell of his former MVP self, but like Gurley, if you don’t overuse him, Peterson can be a very productive back for a team with an O-Line like the Rams.
3 – Frank Gore – I know, it’s crazy right? I mean the year Gore started his career, the Rams had BOTH Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson on the roster as running backs.
But Gore is like the Dorian Grey of the NFL. I am sure somewhere in his house there is a picture of him that looks so old right now.
Last season, Gore played in 15 games and rushed for a respectable 653 yards behind a brutal offensive line with the Jets (not to mention a horrible coach). You put him behind that Rams line, and do not overuse him and Gore could discover a fountain of middle age in LA.
There are other names out there, Duke Johnson, Le’Veon Bell (talk about something to prove) and LeSean McCoy, all of whom would be of some use, but none will be able to
fully replace Akers. The Rams best hope may be the trade market, if Travis Ettiene proves he can be the man in Jacksonville, maybe 2nd year man James Robinson will be made available, but that would be a long shot.
In the meantime, the 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals are all breathing a little easier and now they all at least have a shot at the NFC West title.