Rams RB Darrell Henderson is an NFC West Leader Among RBs

Darrell Henderson

Getty Darrell Henderson breaks from one arm tackle during the Thursday, October 7, road win from the Los Angeles Rams.

How has Darrell Henderson fared in five games as RB1 for the Los Angeles Rams? Especially in replacing Cam Akers?

“Hendo” may not be the league’s leading rusher, nor the NFL’s leader in rushing touchdowns. He also hasn’t played a full schedule as he’s battled early injuries. However, he’s managed to have this title as of Week 5: The NFC West’s leading rusher.

Henderson leads all running backs in his division with 294 rushing yards. The next closest back to him within the division? Arizona’s Chase Edmonds at 270 yards.

That’s not the only leading stat from “Hendo.”

Per Pro Football Focus, Henderson has broken off nine runs of 10+ yards — giving him the lead among backfield starters in his own division.

For a team that’s naturally pass-heavy, the Rams have still found ways to utilize Henderson. And while he’s averaging just 73.5 yards per the four games he’s played, Henderson is currently the leading running back west of the Rocky Mountains in the NFC West.

Where ‘Hendo’ Has Done his Most Damage

On 43 running plays, Henderson has ran with zone blocking in front of him.

He’s additionally taken advantage of following the lead of the pulling lead blocker. This includes wide receiver Cooper Kupp as seen here in this red zone touchdown from the 26-17 road win at Seattle on Thursday, October 7:

Despite the 37-20 drubbing at the hands of the Cardinals in Week 4, Henderson delivered his best yardage day on the year with 89. It was also the game where he returned from his ribs injury. Again, “Hendo” follows the flow of the zone blocking up front, but later trusts his eyes in finding an open lane then redirecting himself to that opening below:

One more sample: Henderson again follows Kupp’s lead on this pull block by the slot wide receiver. Kupp, as the rare 6-foot-2, 208-pound blocking fullback, ends up becoming responsible for the safety on this play. Kupp chips at Seahawks safety Jamal Adams. Henderson follows through and places the Rams inside Seattle’s red zone.

Through the zone blocking scheme, Henderson has carved out a combined 88 of his 294 yards while running up the side of the left end (outside shoulder of the tight end) or right end per PFF.

However, he’s proven to be much more than an outside threat outside of the TE’s blocking and has shown his inside grinder side. In runs directed toward the middle right (between center Brian Allen and right guard Austin Corbett), Henderson has averaged 6.0 yards per carry running behind them and has 60 yards bursting through that gap. His yards after contact (33) is also highest going up that alley created by the interior linemen to that side.

Sean McVay Loves This Part of ‘Hendo’s’ Game

For all the talk of Henderson’s ground game ability, it’s the plays without the football that has Rams head coach Sean McVay smiling at the thought of “Hendo.”

Henderson has joined fellow RB Sony Michel in creating extra protection for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Both were reliable in identifying potential blitzers in the nine-point road win, which McVay spoke about from his Friday video conference with the L.A. media.

“I thought it was good to get the run game going, but what you saw from both those guys too, that I think epitomizes the toughness of their coach is watching them stick their face on people and protection,” McVay said. “Both of those guys had huge blitz pickups that we ended up creating explosive plays from. And Matthew did a great job being able to move off of it. And these are some of the better blitzing linebackers in the whole league.”

Here’s what McVay is referring to from the ‘Hawks game: Henderson gets called to the left “A” gap by Stafford and Corbett as they identify a blitz threat that side. Seattle’s Jordyn Brooks bails out of the blitz to try to confuse Henderson, thinking Bobby Wagner will come free. However, Henderson turns and finds an oncoming Wagner. Henderson makes this deep connection between Stafford and Robert Woods happen by picking up this blitz:

Henderson may not have the most astronomical of numbers. But, it’s good enough to lead his division so far. And he’s shown he’s valuable enough to stay on the field outside of running plays.

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