Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin were considered the stars of the show in Los Angeles with the Rams back home. Now, it appears as though both have gone missing in their respective acts. Why? Who’s to blame for their disappearance? Well, it could be a collection of things; including a lack of an offensive line for Gurley to find holes and run the ball through, Austin not being able to create space as a full-time wide receiver, starting QB Case Keenum unable to adapt to throwing to a small frame in 5-foot-8 Austin. Many things could be triggering their lack of production.
I am just going to start off by saying the Rams old Offensive coordinator of last season Frank Cignetti who was subsequently fired after starting off fast and furious only to lead an offense to possibly the lowest of the low. Cignetti didn’t call a good offensive scheme at all but, he made it his mission to get the ball in Austin’s hands and let him make plays in the open field. That, of course, led to Austin’s best year as a Ram and basically netted him his 40+ million dollar deal this past off-season. So what exactly does this have to do with Gurley you ask? A lot.
You see, this season Gurley has been used in more of an isolated role and not exactly the way he was utilized last year with Austin being the catalyst in reverse and end around play calls whether they were faked or not. Gurley last season ran 229 times and when Gurley wasn’t running, most of the time it was Austin getting the ball via out of the backfield or an end around/jet sweep type of play that was maximized by a fake handoff to Gurley. How crazy is it that Austin ran 52 times last year for 434 rushing yards. This season he has only run it 13 times for 62 yards!
So it’s fairly simple, while Cignetti was a trainwreck, he had a great plan put together to utilize the two most explosive offensive weapons on the Rams and now new Offensive coordinator Rob Boras has seemingly erased that from his playbook. As I mentioned Austin has only ran 13 times and with how the Rams rushing attack worked when Gurley and Austin were used hand in hand, it seems stupid to change the running game. It’s not to take anything away from Gurley but the way Austin averaged above eight yards a carry, teams had to keep him honest when he went in motion and the Rams faked the end around to Austin. On top of that when the Rams faked the handoff to Gurley teams had to keep Gurley honest since he was averaging 4.8 yards a carry last year. See, now, as a result one would open up more opportunities for the other.
Brett Kollmann of Battle Red Blog conducted one of the best film studies I have ever witnessed on the Rams last year. It was pretty popular so you may have already seen it but if not or even if you have, you should see it again. Basically, this video is a perfect representation of what made the Rams run game so scary and makes us confused the Rams stopped doing what worked.
Since the acquisition of up-and-coming offensive mastermind Mike Groh for passing game coordinator and a full off-season with Rob Boras to work on his own system. It appears the Rams have switched their approach on offense to more of a pass-happy style instead of what worked last year with the ground and pound type offense. Case Keenum just threw 53 passes in the last game versus the Giants and it was only a one score game. Clearly, the Rams are all out of sorts and during the bye week it might be smart to start discussing a rebirth of last year’s zone blocking scheme and the innovation of Gurley and Austin in the run game.
This year’s narrative has been more on Gurley becoming a threat in the passing game which he has but the Rams need to go back to letting Austin and Gurley compliment each other and until that happens it’s only going to be tougher for Gurley to break through and finally play at the performance we expect from him.