In Week 14, the Los Angeles Rams offense turned to running back Sony Michel to serve as the team's lead rusher against the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Darrell Henderson nursed a thigh injury.
While Henderson was active and suited up to play, he didn't receive a snap on Sunday, as coach Sean McVay stated during his postgame press conference, they didn't feel the situation permitted itself to plug Henderson in the game given his circumstances.
In getting handed the starting role on Sunday, Michel seized his opportunity, handling 24 carries for 121 yards and one touchdown. The Rams haven’t had a 100-yard rusher all season heading into last Sunday's contest and yet, Michel's downhill rushing attack propelled the offense to gather chunk yards by handing him the ball for the greater part of three and a half quarters.
As a result of Michel's dominance, it’s fair to assume a larger role is presumably in the works for him moving ahead.
There's no indication of Henderson's health status for Week 14 as more clarity will present itself when the injury report comes out later in the week. Although, even if Henderson is available, Michel may have empowered himself enough to cut into Henderson's carries down the stretch of the season.
“I think it's really good to get Sony going. I think he's a rhythm runner, but I think we definitely would want to find ways to still have Darrell as a big part of it," McVay said. "What exactly that looks like – the distribution of carries – I don't know that. But I know that we're a really good team and we're a better team when we have Darrell Henderson involved as well. So, you saw us mix up some different personnel. There's nothing that says that you can't find a way to have both those guys in the game at the same time as well."
McVay was reluctant to mention that Michel would take over as the starting running back each week. But rather, it sounds as if he's intrigued by featuring a backfield that at times includes Michel and Henderson on the field together, mixing up personnel and creating a one-two punch.
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"You see Dallas do an outstanding job with Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott) and (Tony) Pollard playing together," McVay said. "And so, I think there's some more avenues that we can explore as ways of taking advantage of all the skills and some of the players that we do have at our disposal. But it will be good to continue to get Sony going, get him into a rhythm, and play the way that he played yesterday, while also utilizing Darrell if he's available this week or not.”
Implementing more of Michel seems evident at this stage of the season. It allows Henderson to not take as much of a beating – who’s notoriously dealt with injury concerns over the course of his three-year career – and Michel has provided a different dimension to the running game, while averaging just over four yards per carry.
“He’s physical. He's tough. He's got great contact balance and really good vision," McVay said of Michel. "He's just strong. When you're just looking at Sony Michel, he's a sturdy, tough back. So, all of those things are really reflective. He's really conscientious, really smart. I've kind of mentioned it about Odell (Beckham Jr.) the last couple weeks, but people forget Sony came in here at the very end of training camp and immediately is playing in Week 1, where he's up and available against the Bears. And then he had a huge workload against the Colts at the end of the game. His football intelligence, makeup and who he is, is all about the right stuff. (I) love working with him. But I think ultimately the physicality, the build, his vision and his ability to be able to fall forward and kind of be able to naturally work edges, but deliver those body blows is what makes him a good physical-contact runner.”
The body blows that McVay speaks of is an area the Rams could really use in an effort to wear down their opponents. In the Rams' last few losses, they lost the physicality battle and as the weather gets colder and players begin to get worn down as the season progresses, having a downhill rusher like Michel so eloquently displayed in Week 13, can help sustain drives.
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