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Has Sony Michel Earned Larger Role In Rams Backfield?

  • The Draft Network
  • December 21, 2021
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Tuesday's inner-divisional showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks looms large for various reasons. The 9-4 Rams are securely holding onto the top wild-card spot in the NFC, but are now nipping at the heels of the Arizona Cardinals for the division lead in the NFC West. A win over the Seahawks on Tuesday would see Sean McVay's Rams equal Arizona's current win total, setting up an intriguing and fierce race for the divisional crown over the final two weeks of the regular season.

Somewhat lost in Tuesday's showdown is a developing storyline worth monitoring regarding how McVay will utilize his two-horse backfield going forward. Presumed starting running back Darrell Henderson Jr. is set to return from a two-game absence on Tuesday, but the former Memphis standout may not be marching his way back into a bellcow role. Henderson was particularly ineffective the last time he was on the field, gaining just 55 yards on 16 attempts in a thrilling 36-28 defeat to the Green Bay Packers. Los Angeles' offense possesses a plethora of weapons in both the running and passing game, but it's worth noting that Henderson has failed to top 100 rushing yards in a single game this season.

Henderson's recent stint on the sidelines provided Sony Michel with an opportunity to lay his claim to L.A.'s backfield, and the former first-round pick has taken full advantage as of late. Michel exploded in his Week 13 start against the Jacksonville Jaguars, rushing for an astounding 121 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Michel's five yards per carry was a season-high mark for him and his 121 rushing yards was a season-high total for any Rams ball-carrier in a single showing this season. Michel handled himself well in his next start, averaging a respectable four yards per carry on 20 carries in last week's pivotal primetime victory over the Cardinals. The former Georgia standout has been in rather fine form since taking over for Henderson as Los Angeles' RB1. The Rams notably won both games with Henderson on the sidelines. 

Henderson has now been activated from the team's COVID-Reserve List. McVay is playing particularly coy with his backfield plans for Tuesday's game against the Seahawks.

"We'll use them both," McVay said. "Michel has done a great job these last few weeks. We [also] know how reliable Henderson is. We'll utilize both of those guys."

The facts indicate Michel may be the clear-cut better fit to shoulder the load in Los Angeles' talented backfield. Both players are extremely capable—it's ultimately a good problem to have. Ensuring Michel continues to see a minimum of 10-12 touches per contest while serving as their primary goal-line back is the correct move to be made, and one that could help ensure Los Angeles maintains the recent form they've managed to recapture.

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