Two is better than one. That’s the Los Angeles Rams’ basic reasoning for selecting Darrell Henderson with the 70th overall pick in this year’s draft.
Over the course of the whole offseason, Rams fans and the media alike have tirelessly wondered, “What is wrong with Todd Gurley’s knee?” or “Do the Rams know something that we don’t?”.
Since Los Angeles fell to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 53, that has basically been the main talking point for the Rams this offseason. It didn’t get any better when the reports of Gurley having arthritis in his knee surfaced.
Nevertheless, we could go on all day discussing what is wrong with Gurley but the All-Pro running back will once again be one of the best running backs in the NFL. Gurley may be given fewer touches but he still will be a difference-maker in the offense.
Who is the likely candidate to vulture some of the touches from Gurley this season? Malcolm Brown will likely see a few touches this year with the Rams deciding to match his offer sheet from the Detroit Lions. But ultimately Henderson will be the one who sees the second-most touches in the Rams backfield.
How will Henderson be used by Sean McVay in the offense you might ask? In college, Henderson was an unstoppable threat on the ground at Memphis and cemented his name in the American Athletic Conference record books.
In his three seasons at Memphis, Henderson racked up 3,545 rushing yards, 36 touchdowns, and a whopping 8.2 career-average for yards per carry. His 8.2 yards per carry are the most in AAC history—almost a full-yard of second-place Malcolm Perry.
Henderson’s other records include yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns. Hearing yards from scrimmage is music to McVay’s ears.
Last year, the Rams almost exclusively ran their offense out of 11-personnel. That means that there were three receivers, one tight end, and one running back on the field.
To be exact, Los Angeles ran 91.2-percent of their plays in 11-personnel. For the most of the season, the Rams dominated their opponents with Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Kupp. Furthermore, the Rams ran a lot of play-action and zone-runs out of this personnel
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) July 13, 2019
Teams started to catch on to the Rams offense in the latter part of the season with the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots figuring them out. Expect to see more of the 11-personnel in 2019 but could McVay add a couple more sets in the offense to become less predictable?
That’s where Henderson comes in. McVay could decide to find ways to have both Gurley and Henderson on the field at the same time. This would be a page straight out of Kyle Shanahan’s playbook—but McVay could perfect it.
When Shanahan was the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator in 2015-2016, the Falcons used a lot of two-running back sets. After all, having guys like Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman was a luxury to have. For the most part, Freeman acted as the bruiser while Coleman was the receiving threat.
This allowed Atlanta to keep defenses on their toes and it helped propel the Falcons to a Super Bowl. Although, like the Rams, they fell short at the hands of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
As for the Rams, both of their running backs in Gurley and Henderson are capable pass-catchers. In just the past two seasons, Gurley has caught 123 passes in the aerial attack.
In college, Henderson was a decent option in the passing game with 63 receptions for 758 yards and eight touchdowns in three years. Another interesting tidbit is that according to PFF, Henderson averaged 6.16 yards per carry after contact in 2018.
Pro Football Focus has calculated college football numbers since 2014 and Henderson’s 6.16 yards per carry after contact were by far the most in PFF’s history. Second-place was Josh Adams who had 4.95 yards per carry after contact in 2017 with Notre Dame.
Therefore, McVay has a valuable weapon at his disposal that can add another wrinkle in his offensive schemes. Drafting Henderson shouldn’t be looked upon as a negative for the Rams and Gurley. The more weapons for Jared Goff, the merrier if you ask me.
Above all, Gurley and Henderson can coexist—with their being a chance that both are on the field at the same time at certain points.