Shades of last year that has resurfaced after one game: The Los Angeles Rams have a key injury in the backfield.
And once again, questions have arisen on if the Super Bowl 56 champions may need to make a move before the NFL trade deadline in November to fill this need.
This time, rookie Kyren Williams will miss some time after suffering a high ankle sprain that will require surgery — putting him out of action for the next six to eight weeks. Starter Cam Akers, meanwhile, appears to have found himself in the Rams’ doghouse for his limited carries from the Thursday, September 8 loss to the Buffalo Bills, which was noted in this Heavy on Rams story.
Outside of Akers, the only other active roster options on the Rams are seventh rounder from 2021 Jake Funk and the veteran who took the bulk of the carries against the Bills Darrell Henderson, who is also in a contract year.
But if the Rams gravitate toward adding to the backfield, there’s one name that’s become a subject of trade rumors who has become lost in a deep backfield in the AFC North.
$2.4 Million Option a Possibility
D’Ernest Johnson has gone from being a valuable versatile asset for the Cleveland Browns backfield to being listed as inactive for the Browns’ last-second victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The 26-year-old Johnson is also no better than the third RB option for Cleveland as he’s now behind Kareem Hunt, Nick Chubb and fifth round rookie Jerome Ford. And this was a backfield option who signed a one-year deal worth up to $2.4 million to remain with the Browns. Brian Stainbrook of the Orange and Brown report stated that while the Browns have no trade proposal from anyone in the league at the moment, the team has become open to dealing him away.
All the more reason why he’s ideal for the situation the Rams are now facing.
The Browns have a stout trifecta to lay the ground work. And it appears tensions between Hunt and the Browns have simmered after he showed his displeased side with his contract talks. Hunt scored twice as a running and receiving threat on Sunday and was the only member of the Cleveland stable of backs to cross the end zone after taking the handoff. Chubb, meanwhile, piled up 141 yards on 22 carries.
Johnson is looking more like the odd man out at the “Dawg Pound.” But there are reasons that point to Johnson being better suited inside the “Rams House.”
Johnson Comes Off Career Year
Johnson still managed to worm his way into two starts for the 2021 Browns. And he responded with career bests across the board.
His 534 rushing yards, 24 runs that were good enough for first downs, 3 touchdowns and even his receptions and receiving yardage totals were the most in his three seasons per Pro Football Reference.
Skillset wise, Johnson has pulled off runs like this cutback inside the red zone:
Plus proved to be trusted on a third and long scenario where the Browns opted to turn to his legs and vision:
And, for a Rams team that’s lined up Akers and Henderson out at wide receiver, Johnson has had designed plays as a receiver too:
Johnson is obviously not a household name in the league. But neither was Sony Michel and he ended up adding a needed presence for the Rams backfield last season. The former South Florida Bull Johnson also doesn’t come with a demanding price tag, so the Rams should have zero trouble taking on his salary if they pivot to pulling a trade.