The Los Angeles Rams look a whole lot different than they did a little over a year ago, and their on-the-fly transition might have a new mascot in Cam Akers.
Drafted with the 52nd overall pick in last year's draft, Akers got off to a slow start as a rookie, hampered by injury and a resulting lack of playing time. But when the Rams needed a significant ground-game factor down the stretch of the 2020 season, Akers stepped up, posting his best career outing in a 29-carry, 171-yard performance against New England in Week 11. He stepped up even more significantly in the playoffs, rushing 28 times for 131 yards and a touchdown, finally showing legitimate flashes of what had made him a prized prospect out of Florida State.
After spending most of 2020 with a committee backfield -- which was, admittedly, effective in part because of its unpredictability and differences in style -- Akers' late-season rise has coach Sean McVay convinced they have their new bell cow.
"You saw Darrell Henderson step up, Malcolm Brown was really consistent throughout the year, but Cam hit his stride at the right moments," McVay said Thursday. "You could see he's always had a real and authentic confidence, but then as he's getting more and more comfortable for the different ways that we were able to utilize him, I think he can come alive in the pass game. I think he can continue to play at a high level. Really, I think he's an every-down back. I think he's a special player."
Akers looked like a special player fairly early, but the examples were in such small doses, you'd have missed it if you blinked. The increased workload late in the campaign helped Akers blossom at an ideal time, as McVay said, finally giving his most ardent supporters legitimate proof to support Los Angeles' selection of him just weeks after cutting Todd Gurley loose.
Even in a Divisional Round loss to Green Bay, Akers was still effective, averaging five yards per rush (on 18 carries) and finishing his season with one final touchdown.
With Matthew Stafford now under center, the time is now for Akers and Co. to flourish. As countless players have said in hindsight, year two was when it all started to slow down and make sense for them, and with Akers entering his second professional season and first behind a signal-caller the caliber of Stafford, he seems to be entering a situation ripe for the taking. Perhaps we're just months from the rest of the football world seeing what McVay already believes to be true.