Los Angeles Rams RB Cam Akers tore his Achilles on July 20 while training for the upcoming season. The Rams activated him off the non-football injury list two days before Christmas. Now Akers will be the feature back for Los Angeles in Super Bowl LVI. PFN’s Cody Roark sat down with Rams legend and Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk to discuss his recovery.
Marshall Faulk on Cam Akers’ Achilles recovery
Akers returned to an NFL game 173 days after his reported Achilles tear. That is five months and 20 days. According to a 2017 study conducted by Selene Parekh and Jay Shah, on average, it takes an NFL player nine months to recover from an Achilles tear.
Of the 78 examples from 2010-2015, 26% of players who suffered the injury never played again. Of all the positions, the net approximate value dropped 23%. However, that differs significantly for running backs. Runners saw a 78% decrease in production over a three-year span following the injury.
Seeing how explosive Akers has been so quickly after his injury shocked everyone, including Faulk.
“It’s just unbelievable. Normally they would come back, and it took them a while to look like themselves. The explosiveness, the second level explosiveness, the ability to run in between the tackles with guys on him and still get the yards and move him forward. I’ve just been impressed, man.”
Akers since the injury
Since I’m not in the business of lying, I must admit that Akers’ production is nowhere close to what we saw from him in the 2020 regular season or postseason.
However, he’s also in a different environment, behind an offensive line that’s struggled to move people all season. That is, at least relative to their performance in 2020 when they finished fourth in rushing DVOA (Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric).
The most significant loss after an Achilles injury, as Faulk said, is a difference in the player’s explosiveness. It’s a positive sign that despite averaging just 2.8 yards per carry in the playoffs, Akers looks like the athlete he once was.
It will be fascinating to see if he can buck the trend of backs losing production after this injury.
Rams rushing woes in the playoffs
The Rams are generating a whopping -.450 EPA/play (expected points added) on the ground throughout the playoffs on offense. That would have been the worst in the NFL during the regular season by a massive margin. The good news, if there is any, is that the only other team worse in running the football during the playoffs has been Cincinnati, who has the same EPA/play output but an even lower success rate.
So I guess that whole “run game and defense wins championships” is taking a bit of a hit in 2021, huh?
Their offensive line is struggling, and the explosion Akers possesses is the best weapon they have in their outside zone and duo rushing attack. Unfortunately, D.J. Reader and B.J. Hill won’t make things easy on Akers come Sunday afternoon.
But we should all be in awe that he’s even on the field at all.