How much did Thomas Brown impact Cam Akers’ resurgence late last year?
Cam Akers was a complete non-factor in the first five weeks of the season. In a backup role, he rushed for 151 yards on 51 carries. After a slow start to the year, he and the Rams had their very odd and puzzling dispute before Week 6, resulting in Akers not practicing or being around the team for three weeks.
Akers returned to the team and played just 21 snaps in his first two games back, but from the end of November on, he was a stud. He rushed for 610 yards and scored six touchdowns on 126 carries in the final eight games of the season, including a three-game stretch with 345 yards and three touchdowns to close out the season.
So what changed? What caused Akers to go from struggling so badly to looking like one of the more efficient runners in the league?
Thomas Brown may have played a role in that.
One day after Akers returned to the team in November, Sean McVay told reporters that Brown – at the time, the assistant head coach and tight ends coach – would transition into a role where he was more involved with the running backs. Brown was the running backs coach in 2021, but before the 2022 season, he moved to TEs coach and the Rams filled his vacated role by hiring Ra’Shaad Samples.
Rams making subtle coaching staff adjustments here, almost certainly in response to the conflict with Cam Akers, who likes & respects Thomas Brown very much. Samples is 27 and in his 1st season as an NFL ass't coach. https://t.co/FSvU5zbAod
— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) November 4, 2022
Samples’ tenure with the Rams didn’t seem to go very well, with the ground game failing to gain any traction. Then on Dec. 6, it was reported that Samples accepted a job as Arizona State’s wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.
That’s right about when Akers started to catch fire.
Why bring this up now? Because Brown is gone, accepting a role as the Panthers’ offensive coordinator.
It’s worth asking how Brown’s departure will impact Akers and the Rams’ ground game as a whole. He seemed to be the one that got things back on track in the second half of the season, and perhaps his return to a role coaching the running backs is what resolved Akers’ dispute with the team. After all, they happened in the same week.
The Rams are going to miss Brown. There’s no denying that. He was a rising coach on their staff, someone McVay held in high regard. But it’s possible Akers and the running back room is going to regress without his presence in practice and in meetings.
Brown hasn’t been gone long, but the Rams have yet to find a replacement for him. They filled his role as the tight ends coach by hiring Nick Caley, but Brown was set to be the running backs coach in 2023. That position is still vacant.
If the Rams are sold on Akers as their starting running back, they need to find a coach who meshes well with him. Samples didn’t seem to be the guy, but Brown clearly was. He won’t be easy to replace in Los Angeles.
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