Comeback aside, Cam Akers unimpressed with own performance during Rams' Super Bowl run

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Inglewood, CA - February 13: Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers (23) celebrates after the Los Angeles Rams defeated Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022 in Inglewood, CA.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Rams running back Cam Akers celebrates after the Rams defeated Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI. He wasn't thrilled with his performance, however. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

It was a remarkable comeback with something of a storybook ending.

Less than six months after suffering an Achilles injury that sidelined him for nearly the entire season, Rams running back Cam Akers returned just before the playoffs and helped his team make a run to a Super Bowl title.

Akers was happy to win a championship — “It’s been cool; everything you can imagine,” he said Thursday — but he was not overly impressed with his performance.

“I don’t feel like I played the best games throughout that time span,” he said during a videoconference with reporters, “so there wasn’t really a lot of celebrating for me.

“It was more, ‘How can I get better?’ ”

Akers, 22, is aiming to play a full season in 2022, when the Rams will try to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots achieved the feat in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Akers and fourth-year pro Darrell Henderson are the projected top running backs for a team that has not moved to re-sign free agent Sony Michel. The Rams on Thursday completed their first week of offseason workouts.

After several notable performances as a rookie in 2020, Akers had prepared for the 2021 season with high expectations.

But last July, on the eve of training camp, Akers suffered a torn right Achilles, a setback that typically would sideline a player for the entire season.

Akers, however, returned for the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers, and he carried the ball five times for three yards in a 27-24 defeat.

In four postseason games, Akers averaged nearly 17 carries and 43 yards per game but did not score a touchdown. He fumbled twice in an NFC divisional-round victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In the 23-20 Super Bowl victory. over the Cincinnati Bengals, Akers rushed for 21 yards in 13 carries, and caught three passes for 14 yards.

“I don’t feel like I played my best games the five games I returned, but I did what I was supposed to do,” he said. “But obviously that’s not enough.”

Akers said he began working on his craft again a few days after the Super Bowl.

“I got a lot to improve on, a lot to polish up on when it comes to my game,” he said. “So, this offseason I’ve been hitting all of those deficits trying to get better.”

Other takeaways from the Rams’ first week of the offseason program:

Letdown? What letdown?

After winning the Super Bowl, the Rams are expecting opponents to be “gunning” for them, center Brian Allen said.

But the Rams will be prepared.

“You already hear things like, ‘Super Bowl lulls’ and things like that,” Allen said. “Those are things that I really just don’t think will exist here.

“Everybody wants to get better. ... 2022 is the focus and we’re moving on and trying to get better.”

No replacing Andrew Whitworth

For the first time since 2017, the Rams are preparing for a season without left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who retired after a 16-year career.

Joe Noteboom will start at left tackle, but Whitworth’s accrued wisdom cannot be replaced individually or collectively, right tackle Rob Havenstein said.

“You’re not replacing Whit because you can’t,” said Havenstein, an eighth-year pro, adding, “You put all of our combined playing experience, you still don’t make it up to where Whit is.”

Havenstein, Noteboom and Allen are among players that could help fill the void.

“It’s the power of the team, power of the [offensive line] room,” Havenstein said. “Guys stepping up and taking another step towards their leadership. But everybody’s going to do it in their own way.”

Rams cornerback Robert Rochell (31) defends against Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett.
Rams cornerback Robert Rochell (31) defends against Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Rochell aims to be a starter next season. (Ben VanHouten / Associated Press)

Cornerback Robert Rochell is competing to start

With Darious Williams gone after signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Rochell is vying to fill a starting role in a secondary that also includes star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and fourth-year pro David Long.

Rochell began his rookie season as a reserve but moved into the starting lineup for five games after Williams suffered an injury. Rochell intercepted one pass.

His season ended when he suffered a season-ending rib injury in a Dec. 5 game against the Jaguars.

“First rib by my collar bone,” Rochell said when asked about the injury and his recovery. “One of the craziest injuries I ever went through because it’s so rare. No treatment. Just pain. So, there was a lot of mental stuff that went into it.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.