Rams ready to rely on Kyren Williams as their lead running back

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams are putting the ball in Kyren Williams’ hands, literally and figuratively.

Williams, the second-year running back from Notre Dame, will be the focus of the Rams’ rush offense moving forward following the decision to move on from Cam Akers, which culminated in a trade to the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday.

“I feel blessed,” Williams said. “I feel as if I did put in the work to get to where I’m as now in this position of being starting running back for the Los Angeles Rams, so I feel like I did what I had to do to earn the trust of this organization.”

Williams has run for 104 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries through two games for the Rams (1-1). He also has six receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown headed into a game at the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) on Monday.

Rams coach Sean McVay said the all-around nature of Williams’ skill set is what earned the 23-year-old a larger role.

“I think he’s got the ability to play on all downs,” McVay said. “It was really about you just continue to evaluate every single day and you couldn’t deny some of the improvements in the things that he was doing that were in alignment with saying, ‘We got to figure out ways to be able to get him involved.’”

Williams was on track to play as a rookie in passing situations before breaking his foot and undergoing surgery in the summer.

While he couldn’t be an active participant in his first training camp, Williams found other ways to stay involved.

“I remember being in Irvine during camp I had the walkie-talkie and the microphone, listening to all the play calls while I was doing my rehab over on the side of the field,” Williams said.

McVay said it was that kind of dedication that set the stage for Williams’ strong start to this season.

“He’s passionate about the game and you look at a guy that had a couple different setbacks as a rookie, didn’t let it phase him and just controlled the things that he could control,” McVay said.

However, McVay recognizes there are going to be growing pains for Williams.

One of those moments came in the 30-23 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday when Williams couldn’t catch a pass that hit him in the hands and it was intercepted. Los Angeles had been in position to at least kick a field goal and take the lead in the third quarter, and the turnover allowed San Francisco to go ahead on the ensuing drive.

Williams said it was difficult but he found a way to shake off that mistake, demonstrating some of the growth mindset McVay appreciates about him.

“He’s just continuing to love the opportunity to go compete and to continue to take steps in the right direction,” McVay said. “I know he’s a guy that is going to never be satisfied and that’s a great thing.”

The elevation of Williams also marked the end of Akers’ up-and-down four seasons in Los Angeles. A second-round pick in 2020, Akers flashed significant potential as a rookie before recovering from a torn Achilles tendon in time to be part of the postseason run that ended with the Super Bowl win over the Bengals.

However, the injury and quick return seemed to sap Akers of some of his athleticism. He also clashed with coaches last season, resulting in time away from the team before closing out 2022 with three straight 100-yard games.

McVay said trading Akers was in the best interest of the Rams.

“Sometimes you have to be able to make tough decisions and I’m very grateful for the things that Cam did over the course of his career,” McVay said. “He’s a very good player, did a lot of really good things.”


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL