Cam Akers’ tumultuous time in Los Angeles appears headed for a finale.
The Rams have had trade talks centered around Akers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Monday, less than 24 hours after Akers spent Los Angeles’ Week 2 loss to the 49ers as a healthy scratch.
Akers was inactive for the game following what Rapoport characterized as a difficult week of practice, leaving him in an uncertain standing with the Rams. Kyren Williams replaced him as the starting running back and will serve in such a role going forward.
“Coach’s decision, felt like that was best for our football team,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said after Sunday’s game. “Felt like Kyren gave us the best opportunity and what Ronnie (Rivers) and Royce (Freeman) had done, so that was the decision that I made.”
The development is a disappointing one for those who hoped Akers’ strong finish to the 2022 season — in which he broke 100 rushing yards in each of his final three outings — would propel him to a fast start in 2023. Instead of seeing Akers sprint out of the gate in the first two weeks, Rams fans watched him average just 1.9 yards per carry in Los Angeles’ Week 1 win over the Seattle Seahawks before sitting out in Week 2.
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Admittedly, Williams had a better outing in the season-opening win and appeared to become McVay’s preferred back after scoring two touchdowns in Los Angeles’ surprising season-opening triumph. Preference shouldn’t matter, not in a league in which committee backfields are all the rage, but it apparently had enough of an impact to lead McVay to make Akers inactive on Sunday.
Without Akers, Williams had a similarly productive, but not overwhelmingly positive day Sunday, gaining 52 yards and scoring one rushing touchdown on 14 attempts. He was the only running back to record a rushing attempt in the Week 2 defeat.
“It’s different. It’s more about I’m always going to make decisions that are in the best interest of our football team,” McVay said. “I have tremendous respect for Cam Akers, but I felt like for our football team today and in this game and as we moved forward, that was going to be the best decision for us.”
It doesn’t take a doctorate in psychology to read between the lines here: Akers is likely unhappy with his role in the Rams’ offense, and McVay isn’t interested in acquiescing.
Akers grew similarly displeased in 2022, stepping away from the team for several weeks with the expectation he’d be dealt by the trade deadline. When that didn’t happen, he and the Rams found a way to work together again, leading to some of the best games of his career.
This time around, it sounds as if McVay doesn’t have much patience for Akers’ displeasure.
“I think there is going to be an opportunity to see what that looks like moving forward, but it’s not going to be a back-and-forth thing,” McVay said. “He and I have had great dialogue, and we’ll see what happens over the next couple days.”
Through two weeks, the 2023 Rams are proving to be a fascinating bunch. They were not expected to contend for the first time since the middle of last decade. McVay is operating in a new space, no longer weighed down by the pressure of needing to produce instant success, and the results have suggested McVay is going to operate without concern for star power.
Take the receiving corps, which is currently headlined by Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell with Cooper Kupp on injured reserve. The former has a team-high 25 catches for 266 yards through two games, while the latter is finally starting to deliver on the second-round pick Los Angeles spent on him in 2021.
McVay doesn’t need to keep his headlining stars happy. He’s free to try to win with whoever he deems his best option. As of now, that option is Williams. We’ll see if Akers ends up finding a better opportunity elsewhere via trade, or works with the Rams to again settle their differences for a second straight year.
Based on his “next couple days” line, it sounds like the window to find common ground won’t last nearly as long this time around.
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