Darrell Henderson Jr. emerges as 'closer' in Rams' running back committee

Darrell Henderson Jr. rushed for 81 yards and this touchdown and also added 40 yards receiving in Sunday's win. Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Cam Akers started. Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson Jr. provided middle relief. And Henderson stayed in as the closer.

The Los Angeles Rams entered the 2020 season with a plan to utilize a running back by committee approach, but in Sunday's 37-19 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the plan came about as much by necessity as it was out of choice.

Akers, the rookie second-round pick from Florida State, suffered a rib injury on the opening drive and did not return. Brown and Henderson took over, but midway through the fourth quarter, Brown exited because of a finger injury and did not return, leaving Henderson as the only available back.

"He's a player that we love and love a lot of different ways," quarterback Jared Goff said after the game. "It was exciting to see him kind of get a chance to shine today."

The Rams accumulated 449 total yards of offense, 121 of which belonged to Henderson in a performance that must be considered a breakout for the second-year pro, who was selected with a third-round pick in 2019.

"I was really pleased with Darrell Henderson," Rams coach Sean McVay said after the game. "I thought he was a real bright spot for us."

Henderson rushed for 81 yards and his first career touchdown on 12 carries and also caught two passes for 40 yards, easily executing a plan discussed earlier in the week by McVay and running backs coach Thomas Brown to utilize him in the passing game.

"We were not surprised to see that," McVay said about Henderson's pass-catching ability. "But it was really good for him to be able to do that."

McVay did not provide an update on the severity of Akers' or Brown's injuries after the game, leaving uncertainty whether the Rams will be able to return to their committee approach in Week 3 against the Buffalo Bills.

Goff, who passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns, credited the backfield for the offense's efficiency, as the unit resembled some of its 2018 self due to success in play-action and using misdirection.

"It all feeds off the run game," said Goff, who also handed off to receivers Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson. "We're dangerous right now when we're able to run the ball, and it's fun."

Akers, making his second career start, rushed for 13 yards in three carries before being sidelined.

Brown, who scored the Rams' two touchdowns in Week 1, rushed for 47 yards on 11 carries before he left the game with 7:48 remaining.

Henderson, who nursed a hamstring injury late in training camp and saw limited action in Week 1, accumulated 40 of his 121 all-purpose yards when he was the only back available late in the fourth quarter.

"Darrell did great, he really stepped up," Goff said. "Those three guys kind of rotating, and then Cam going down early, Darrell did have to step up -- and in a game when he probably wasn't expecting to get that many touches -- and then Malcolm went down late, and again, he was in there by himself the whole time, so he did a great job."

After the decision to cut Todd Gurley II in March, questions remained about the potential of the Rams backfield behind the veteran Brown, who entered the NFL six seasons ago as an undrafted free agent, and the inexperienced Henderson and Akers.

Through two games and a 2-0 start, Brown, Henderson and Akers have established a presence that opponents must account for. Now the only question is whether they'll be able to return to a committee approach or if the plan must be changed because of injuries.