Depth at RB and WR even more critical for Rams in 17-game season

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Cameron DaSilva
·3 min read
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The NFL announced a major change this week when owners approved of a 17-game regular season. As a result, every team in the league will play an extra game beginning in 2021 – the Rams will face the Ravens – while the preseason will be condensed to three games.

More football is never a bad thing for fans of the sport, but for players, it increases the wear and tear on their bodies. It’s hard enough for guys to last a full 16-game season without missing at least some time with injuries – be it major or minor ones – so adding another game will make it even tougher to field the same starting lineup all season.

This change increases the need for depth at two key positions for the Rams: running back and wide receiver. Running back is especially important to have at least three starting-caliber players, but depth at wideout is also paramount in this lengthened season – particularly with the belief that the Rams will make the playoffs and potentially push for a Super Bowl.

This doesn’t mean they have to go out and select two running backs in the draft or add three receivers between now and Week 1. Fortunately, they already have some talent at both positions.

The running back group is led by Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, with Xavier Jones currently penciled in as RB3. At wideout, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson and DeSean Jackson will be the main contributors, while Trishton Jackson could be the fifth and emergency option.

But Akers missed three games last season, Henderson also sat out three (including the playoffs), Kupp was sidelined for two games and Jackson has played eight games in the last two seasons.

Running back is a particularly tough position to get 16 starts out of a player at. In the last five seasons, only 26 times has a running back started all 16 games in a season. The ageless Frank Gore did it twice, as did Isaiah Crowell. David Johnson and Christian McCaffrey also started all 16 games twice in the last five seasons.

Akers and Henderson were both banged up last season, and it’s not unreasonable to think they’ll both miss at least a game or two next season, too. The Rams have to be prepared for that, which is why Jones could see his role increase in Year 2.

Jefferson suffered a Jones fracture in his foot before the draft and had to miss the NFL combine, though it didn’t limit him as a rookie. The Rams don’t expect it to hinder him moving forward, but Jones fractures can linger and become problematic in certain instances.

With how often Sean McVay deploys three receivers at a time, Los Angeles must make sure it has at least four starting-caliber wideouts on the roster – which as of now, it certainly does.

The additional game won’t make a huge difference, but at running back, depth is even more important. Don’t be surprised if most teams go four or five deep on their roster in 2021.