The reverberations from Cam Akers' torn Achilles are still being felt. On the eve of training camp, the Rams' running back room is without an established starter and the roster as a whole is a bit weaker amid Super Bowl expectations.
Matthew Stafford, whose offseason arrival has changed the franchise's complexion most and who'll now likely carry a larger load, is most concerned with how Akers' season-ending injury affects the second-year back himself.
"I think I have a lot of belief and a lot of trust in the guys that we have in that locker room and on the coaching staff to no matter who's back there, we're going to have a successful running game," Stafford told reporters Sunday. "Really the biggest gut punch was for the kid. I think it's so difficult. I dealt with injuries my first couple of years. Really throughout your career, you end up doing it here in the NFL. So, that one's obviously a tough one and one that's going to take some time. So I really feel for him, more so than I do us as a team.
"I know we'll miss him out there. He's a great player, but just feel bad for him to not get the opportunity to go out there and play the game that I know he loves to play. We'll do everything we can to make him proud."
Stafford knows how Akers feels. Injuries claimed several games early in his career, including 13 from his second season following a promising rookie campaign. The veteran quarterback has also dealt with key contributors being sidelined just as his teams were in position to contend.
The silver lining for Los Angeles is that Akers went down before the preseason. The free-agent bucket isn't completely bare and trades can be explored. Coach Sean McVay has maintained that the Rams are in no rush to add a veteran back, though it's hard to see them relying on just Darrell Henderson, Xavier Jones, Raymond Calais, Jake Funk and Otis Anderson for the entire season.
L.A.'s run game is too critical to its offensive success, so an RB upgrade seems inevitable.
Akers had not only assumed a starting role last December but really separated himself on the depth chart. After rushing for 221 yards in the postseason, the 2020 second-round pick looked primed for a star turn in Year 2. His 2022 return will be eagerly awaited, but his QB reminded that the team has to move on for 2021.
"Really tough to see that happen to a young guy that's a really promising, talented player," Stafford said. "Unfortunately, that's kind of the name of the game in the NFL. You hate to see it happen in the offseason when we're playing a game or something, but it's next man up. Those guys are going to battle it out and I'm sure we'll do whatever we can to make the running game as good as we possibly can.
"Cam was a really productive player as a young guy last year. And we were looking for a lot out of them this year. But next man up, we'll go from there. Wish him the best obviously."
The next man on the depth chart is Henderson, whose 2020 season was cut short by an ankle injury. McVay said he sees him as a potential every-down back but doesn't plan to play him in the preseason as a precaution.
"It's never been an ability question," McVay said. "It's about, how do we keep him available?"
There's a familiar face available on the open market in Todd Gurley, but McVay said the team isn't looking to add the former Rams All-Pro.
"I don't think that's something we're exploring with the veteran route," McVay said. "It's unfortunate for Cam; we are going to use camp to see how (RBs coach) Thomas Brown can implore into these guys."