In late October, during Cam Akers’ exile from the Rams, the team tried to trade the then-embattled running back but found no takers.
Akers returned to the team after a two-plus weeks absence and has, of late, produced as he did before he suffered an Achilles injury that sidelined him for nearly the entire 2021 season.
Will the Rams attempt to shop the third-year pro after the season?
“Oh, no,” coach Sean McVay said Monday during a videoconference with reporters. “I think right now, with what he’s done continuing to build on that momentum, I think it’d be silly based on what a great job he’s done to think of it anything differently than him being a big part of what you want to be able to do moving forward. But you just take it a day at a time.
“But that certainly, I think, is something that we’ve worked through. There’s totally a different trajectory in terms of what he’s done. And the way that he’s handled himself and the way that he’s playing the way like we know he’s capable of and hopefully you just continue to see him build on it these last couple weeks and into next year with the Rams.”
On Sunday, Akers rushed for 118 yards and three touchdowns in the Rams’ 51-14 victory over the Denver Broncos.
It was his best performance since the 2020 season playoffs, when the then-rookie rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in an NFC wild-card victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Akers followed that by rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown in a divisional-round defeat by the Green Bay Packers, ostensibly putting him on track for more expanded role in 2021.
But Akers suffered the Achilles injury working out on his own before training camp. He made a remarkable comeback to play in the regular-season finale against the San Francisco 49ers and played throughout the playoffs and in the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
But Akers never appeared close to his previous form.
His struggles continued early this season when McVay called him out for not playing with enough urgency.
Akers maintained before and after his time away from the team that the key to establishing the running game was sticking with it and putting the ball in his hands.
He felt vindicated after Sunday’s victory.
“Proof in the pudding,” he said.
McVay said Monday that Akers has “gone about his business the right way” since returning to the team.
“It says a lot about him to be able to kind of go through the kind of things he’s gone through individually this year and to be where he’s at and continuing to play the way he’s played,” he said.
Akers clearly has benefited from a late-season change in coaches.
Before the season, McVay moved Thomas Brown from running backs coach to tight ends coach to expand Brown’s resume for future coordinator and head-coach opportunities. McVay hired 27-year-old Ra’Shaad Samples in Brown’s place.
Earlier this month, Samples departed for a job with Arizona State, and Brown resumed coaching running backs along with his tight end responsibilities.
Akers has responded.
He got help Sunday from an offensive line that cleared the way for him and gave up no sacks, enabling quarterback Baker Mayfield to complete 24 of 28 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensive tackle Rob Havenstein has been the lone lineman to start every game. After so many struggles this season, the eighth-year pro said it felt good to have a solid collective performance.
“With Cam kind of getting in the flow of things, making plays and making people miss, and we’re holding up our end of the bargain,” Havenstein said.
Havenstein said he was not surprised that Akers has turned around his season.
“Cam’s a very talented guy,” Havenstein said, “and I think the way he’s handled the whole situation, it’s just a testament to kind of who he is.
“He’s wired. He’s a great teammate. He takes coaching, and it’s really kind of shown these last couple weeks. … True testament to who he is and kind of how he’s handled a tough season a tough season for all of us.”
When Akers rejoined the team, he demonstrated “kind of subtle, little slight things” that showed up in practice, Havenstein said.
During games, running backs often sit next to offensive lineman on the bench. Akers apparently makes his presence felt on the sideline as well.
“You can kind of hear him,” Havenstein said. “I don’t know whether he’s talking to himself or anybody around is listening, but he’s definitely a competitive guy.
“So, it’s fun to hear, fun to see those type of things. … That’s definitely a guy you want to be blocking for.”
Offensive lineman Oday Aboushi and Broncos outside linebacker Randy Gregory were suspended for one game by the NFL for their roles in a postgame altercation. McVay said the Rams would appeal Aboushi’s suspension. Havenstein said he saw what occurred. “I don’t think Oday was in the wrong there. He got hit first, so it’s kind of an unfortunate thing that happens and he’s kind of getting the raw end of the deal. But we’ll hopefully see this thing made right.”… Defensive lineman Larrell Murchison, who had two sacks before he left Sunday’s game because of a neck injury, is expected to be ready to practice this week and play Sunday against the Chargers, McVay said.