Here’s a narrative you probably weren’t expecting walking into the 2016 season. “Todd Gurley has been a complete non-factor on the ground, yet the Rams continue to win”. Well I’ll be honest with you the Rams can win without Gurley’s contributions but the question is for how long?
Gurley is fourth in carries, 21st in rushing yards, 43rd in yards per carry and 25th in yards per game. So what exactly is the problem with Gurley you might ask. Well, I personally think the tape doesn’t lie and there is no doubt it’s a combination of the Offensive line woes in the run blocking game and Gurley’s vision when there is a rare hole. Gurley isn’t becoming Trent Richardson so stop that narrative right now. It is worrisome though. Gurley is eventually going to explode and we will be laughing at everyone who said Gurley was done. However, Gurley is flat-out struggling and it might be more than you think.
The reasoning that seems to stick with fans and the media personalities alike is the fact the opposing defenses are “stacking eight-in-the-box”. Gurley thought there were twelve defensive players on the line of scrimmage alone. So what’s the issue? The Offensive line is really struggling but so is Gurley. Don’t believe me? Well, look for yourself…
When you first look a collective moan over the guy we heard all off-season was going to have a better year than Gurley from the media. Ezekiel Elliott has a line though so how about Isaiah Crowell? He has just been a freak of nature. DeMarco Murray is definitely benefiting from having two of the top OT’s in the league per Pro Football Focus. Overall looking at this should worry Rams fans but there is a solution that could open up more for Gurley in the running game and even more on the offensive side of the football.
That’s right, it’s time to use Gurley like the Steelers use the arguable best RB in the league Le’Veon Bell. It’s time to use Gurley heavily in the passing game. If it’s not broke don’t fix it, well it’s broke for now and the way to fix it is by adding another element to the Rams arsenal and that is having Gurley in the passing game. We saw a glimpse of the potential Gurley has a receiving back on Sunday. It’s time to start making it a common thing. Rams QB Case Keenum has a hard time consistently hitting guys down the field in stride. Well, with Gurley featured more in the passing game it could really bail out the signal-caller Keenum while opening up more opportunities for the rest of the WR corps.
Bell is used all over the field and is even in the same offensive set as backup RB DeAngelo Williams. Perhaps the Rams need to pair Gurley and third-down RB Benny Cunningham in the backfield (like i’ve been saying for a year now). Gurley has quality hands, the obvious speed and power to break tackles and find extra yards after the catch. If the Rams seriously can’t get Gurley going in the running game they should 100 percent utilize him in the passing game.
Bell has caught 157 passes for 1,423 yards and three touchdowns. The Key there is you are putting a player like Bell in position to make plays in the open field and that is what the Rams need to do with Gurley. He needs to find open field before he kicks it into his second-gear. Gurley has the potential to be used on wheel routes, slants, flats and even streak patterns. Don’t forget, Gurley is 6-foot-1 so he can go up and snag a ball if he needs to.
Of course it’s worth noting the Rams dealt with this in the form of RB Steven Jackson. He basically played against the eight-in-the-box his whole career. That was during dark times when teams knew they could key in on the best player on the field because there was no passing game to speak of. The Rams did get Jackson going in the passing game too. Now with Gurley it might not be long before teams back off with the eight-in-the-box. Team’s when they do that, are basically making the statement “If you beat us with Case Keenum fine you earned it but, you are not beating us with Todd Gurley”. If Keenum, WR Brian Quick and WR Kenny Britt keep up their performances it will be back to normal with Gurley gashing defenses left and right.
The Bills are next up on the slate for the 3-1 Rams and they are allowing an average of 96 yards per game for opposing running backs. This could be the week Gurley breaks out but regardless it’s time to feature Gurley in the passing game. Hopefully the Rams continue to do such and add another element to not only Gurley’s game but the offensive gameplan as a whole. It’s a copycat league and clearly the Steelers are using their start Running back better than anyone else around the league. The Rams need to copy the Steelers and do that for Gurley.