Training camp is set to begin soon for the Los Angeles Rams, but a key player won't be available. The team received brutally bad news regarding starting running back Cam Akers, who was seen by many -- -- as a potential breakout candidate in 2021. Instead, it's now unlikely Akers will see a single snap this coming season, having suffered a torn Achilles tendon while training ahead of camp, the team announced on Tuesday.
News of the injury lands only a week ahead of the Rams firing up training camp, and now thrusts Darrell Henderson into the starting role going forward, with assists from Xavier Jones, Raymond Calais and rookies Jake Funk and Otis Anderson -- those behind Henderson on the depth chart now having a slightly better chance of surviving roster cut-downs in late August. There's also the option of adding a veteran running back in free agency to help with the loss of Akers (check out who we consider their best options here); a reunion with Todd Gurley might make sense on paper, but the two sides suffered a toxic divorce that could preclude any sort of vow renewal.
However the Rams choose to handle the situation, they'll miss Akers in a big way. Without him on the field, their chances of making the playoffs drop precipitously from 64.6 percent to just 53.9 percent -- per CBS Sports stats analyst Stephen Oh -- with their chances of winning the uber-competitive NFC West also taking a grave hit and dropping nearly eight percentage points to just 22.6 percent (down from 30 percent with Akers in tow).
According to William Hill Sportsbook, it's not expected that the Rams losing Akers will move their lines on any odds they're offering on futures bets.
Additionally, the fantasy football implications are massive.
"Darrell Henderson had some monster weeks playing in place of Akers in 2020, but he split playing time considerably," said CBS Sports Senior Fantasy Writer Dave Richard (check out more from Richard on the fantasy impact of Akers' injury here). "Notably, Henderson was off the field on third downs and averaged just over 2.0 targets per game. Then when Akers came back, Henderson spent most of his time in a backup role. The point is, I'm not sure if this coaching staff likes Henderson, and that means someone else could easily muck up Henderson's upside and keep him from being a smash-hit in L.A.'s run game.
"Also, with Akers gone, don't be surprised if Sean McVay dials up more passes for Matthew Stafford from week to week. That's why I see Henderson as a decent No. 2 Fantasy running back, but definitely not one I'll reach for.
While he's only heading into his second season as pro, Akers ended his rookie year in impressive fashion. After getting the nod as the Rams' second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Akers was mostly caged until Week 11 (ish), when he rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on an awe-inspiring 9.33 yards per attempt. That would turn out to be a prelude for two weeks later, when he ran rampant over the New England Patriots in Week 14 -- to the tune of 171 rushing yards. In doing so, he put the entire league on notice that he had the chops to not only be the starting RB for the Rams, but that he could get the dirty yards as much as readily as he could hit the home run.
He'd continue his momentum in the playoffs, rushing for 131 yards against the Seattle Seahawks on Super Wild Card Weekend and even in the Rams' loss to the Green Bay Packers the following week, Akers was still impactful with 90 yards rushing. All signs pointed to him having a stellar season with Matthew Stafford now under center, but he'll now instead have to undergo surgery to repair his torn Achilles and months of rehabilitation before he can get back to realizing his NFL potential.