In the aftermath of Super Bowl LIII and Todd Gurley’s slowdown at the end of the 2018 season, the Los Angeles Rams opted not to find another backup running back to boost the ground game in free agency. Instead, L.A. waited until the draft, specifically the third round, to grab their next tailback, Darrell Henderson.
An undersized speedster out of Memphis, Henderson already feels at home with the Rams.
"If you go back and watch my college film and you watch the Rams film, it’s the same," Henderson told the Los Angeles Times this week. "I thought that was the best system I could get in. So everything worked out great. When I was talking to them, everything was clicking and we developed a relationship. The coaches told me they knew they were going to get me so it was the perfect fit."
What you see on Henderson’s college film is a lot of yards and a lot of house calls. The Memphis running back left college with 3,545 rushing yards on 431 carries and 36 rushing touchdowns (44 in total). Henderson averaged 8.2 yards per carry during his college career and 8.9 YPC during his final two seasons.
While it’s highly unlikely that, over the course of a season, Henderson will be able to keep up that pace against non-AAC defenses, the running back doesn’t expect to carry the load in Los Angeles right out of the gate. Why should he, with a former Offensive Player of the Year in Gurley ahead of him on the depth chart?
"Todd’s a great guy and he’s someone that every running back should want to learn from," Henderson said. "Getting to be there with him and getting to work with him every day is an unbelievable opportunity. I’m just going to take the knowledge he gives me and watch how he works and learn from it and bring it to my game."
Henderson, along with Malcolm Brown, might have to spell Gurley more often in 2019 than the star back is used to. Gurley was uncharacteristically unproductive and sometimes absent in Los Angeles’ final two games last season, including the Super Bowl. He and the Rams denied his relative lack of action (16 touches, 47 yards, TD) was due to injury, though Gurley had missed L.A.’s final two regular-season contests with a knee issue.
The Rams’ plans for Henderson were hinted at in a behind-the-scenes clip promoted by the team, in which general manager Les Snead said in the lead-up to drafting Henderson that the back has an "[Alvin] Kamara element." Rams coach Sean McVay said that Henderson had a "specific skill set" and could do "unique" things for the offense.
While those terms describing Henderson don’t scream "contender for the starting job," it’s noteworthy that Kamara, also a third-round pick of the Saints and initially third on the depth chart behind Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson, was a lethal backfield option in his rookie season, averaging 7.7 yards per touch and scoring 13 touchdowns in his first year.
Might Henderson have the same impact on the Rams in 2019?
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