The Los Angeles Rams’ backfield is rather crowded at the moment. Could second-year Darrell Henderson take over as the featured back this year? Here are Henderson’s odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season as well as the LA Rams’ Week 1 odds.
Henderson was the No. 70 overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Rams out of Memphis. He was one of the best high school running backs in Mississippi history. In 35 career games at Memphis, Henderson rushed for 3,082 yards, which is second-most in school history. His 31 rushing touchdowns are third in school history and his 40 total touchdowns are tied for second-most in program history. He was just the third Tiger all-time to rush for over 1,000 yards in multiple seasons. As a junior in 2018, he averaged an absurd 9.15 rushing yards per carry.
Henderson didn’t get a ton of carries as a rookie because the Rams had Todd Gurley then – he was released this offseason. Still, Henderson will have to compete with Malcolm Brown and second-round rookie Cam Akers for carries. Henderson had just 39 carries last year for 147 yards and no TDs. He caught four passes for 37 yards.
Henderson played just 8.4 percent of the team’s offensive snaps (95 out of 1,130) as a rookie in 2019 according to Football Outsiders.
“With Darrell, he was a guy that when you do a lot of work on him coming out of Memphis, you love everything about his game,” Coach Sean McVay said last month. “Complete player, a home run hitter, but you saw on some of the runs that he got last year where he’s a finisher, too. I mean, he’s an elusive back, but he’s got some power and he’s got some thickness that can allow him to really have some great contact balance and finish.”
In Week 6 against the 49ers, Henderson averaged 6.5 yards per carry, including ripping off a 22-yard run. His role had been elevated with Gurley out due to a thigh contusion and Brown taking over as the starter for that contest. Rams GM Les Snead said the offense this year wants to “utilize more than one workhorse moving the ball, with different skill sets.”
“We have three running backs. We have three that we really like and that is an honest answer to see how when you start with three important players that you want to give play time to, how it evolves into how many carries or touches or snaps in a game they get is to be determined based on how we’re scheming against a certain opponent. How one of the players is playing or has gotten hot or not hot or is banged up or not,” Snead said.
Henderson underwent offseason surgery on his ankle and has been rehabbing at the Rams’ facilities. The second-year back says that he’s “good to go” for training camp. Henderson must improve in pass protection and with his vision to increase his snap counts.
Ironically, Akers also was one of the best backs in Mississippi high school history. Like Henderson, Akers won the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year Award two years after Henderson did as well as its Mr. Football award. They faced off once, when Batesville played Clinton in the second round of the state’s 2014 Class 6A playoffs. Henderson’s 23 carries for 147 yards and one touchdown propelled second-ranked Batesville to a 9-7 win over fifth-ranked Clinton that night, with Batesville eventually winning the state championship that year.
Akers is at his best in space, which could mean the Rams may be more inclined to use Akers as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. That would lead to Henderson being the predominant ball-carrier in between the tackles.