There’s a new conundrum that has surfaced in the Los Angeles Rams backfield.
Already, this unit has dealt with Cam Akers leaving momentarily for personal reasons with rumblings of wanting out before the Rams managed to mend that fence. Then there’s the rash of injuries and illnesses in the backfield — forcing the Rams to start three different running backs this season including undrafted rookie Ronnie Rivers, who didn’t officially join the team until September 15.
But now, following the 27-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, November 20, new questions emerged involving the Rams backfield. And this time, it involved a back who was once called a “home-run hitter” with his explosive speed in his draft evaluation and began the year as the starter: Darrell Henderson.
Analysts Question ‘Hendo’s’ Usage
Henderson got the greenlight to start against the Saints. But his final numbers were two carries, nine yards.
Yet, it wasn’t because Henderson had to leave due to injury. There was no sign of him needing to go under the medical tent in the Caesar’s Superdome, or needing to go to the locker room. Here were the final snap counts the Rams backfield had per Pro Football Focus:
Cam Akers: 16 offensive snaps, led the way with 14 carries for 61 yards.
Kyren Williams: Eight snaps on the field, finished with seven carries for 36 yards — delivered best average yards per carry among Rams running backs at 5.1.
Henderson: Four snaps total.
While the Rams showed significant improvement in the ground attack with a season-best 148 yards, Henderson’s lack of significant plays left some analysts perplexed on the morning after the Rams loss.
“I still have no idea what happened to Darrell Henderson yesterday,” stated Nathan Jahnke of PFF. “If they wanted to cut his playing time, then why start him and play him every snap on the first drive? He had no signs of an injury. Nothing he did on those 4 snaps warranted losing playing time.”
Michael F. Florio of the NFL Network called the Rams’ Week 11 RB usage “gross.”
Cameron DaSilva of Rams Wire was the most vocal after the game, saying how he believes head coach Sean McVay “can’t seem to make up his mind on who to lean on” and gave a detailed description of the last three weeks the Rams have rolled with at running back — with DaSilva revealing how “Hendo” received the most snaps in Week 9 (49% snap share) and Week 10 (57% of snaps) before it fell to 7% versus the Saints.
DaSilva ended by saying: “Regardless, this is as jumbled as the backfield has been all season.”
Henderson Facing Crucial Year
The 5-foot-8, 208-pounder still holds this current title on the Rams: The team’s leading rusher at 283 yards and the one with the most touchdowns out of the Rams backfield with three. All three of his touchdowns came inside the red zone:
Then this grinding score against the Carolina Panthers:
And his last one against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 10:
Henderson, though, isn’t just now facing a fight for playing time and helping even out the snap counts in the backfield. He’s entering this pivotal part of his career: A contract season.
Henderson is in the final year of his four-year, $4,212,005 deal he signed his rookie season, making him an unrestricted free agent in 2023. With his lack of snaps against the Saints, one has to wonder if this is the beginning of the end for “Hendo” in L.A.
The Rams, though, will have to figure out how to counter a Kansas City Chiefs run defense that’s allowed the fifth fewest rushing yards so far at 1,006. If the Saints game was any indication, the Rams can continue the newfound momentum they discovered in New Orleans. But even after nearly hitting 150 rushing yards, there was still a conundrum involving the backfield…and a new situation that must get addressed before this one becomes the newest dilemma in a season full of them.