The most talked about and questioned knee in all of Los Angeles took the field this past Sunday. All of the questions going into Week 1 were about Los Angeles Rams running back, Todd Gurley, and his health. Whether we would see the 2018 version of Gurley in 2019. For many, even after a Los Angeles Rams victory, the questions have only intensified. However, despite the narrative of a “lighter workload,” the Rams very much still depend on Gurley, and it will be his success that fuels another Super Bowl run, and the Rams know it.
Rams Depend on Todd Gurley, Despite Narrative of Lighter Workload in 2019
What the Rams did make clear Week 1, was their confidence in quarterback, Jared Goff. The first drive for Los Angeles consisted of seven plays, all passes. Of the 18 plays that made up the first three drives, only four were runs. Goff may have gotten his new contract, but that only intensifies the improvements many expect him to make this year. However, even with the increased focus on the passing game, thinking Todd Gurley will be limited this season is reaching.
Just the Beginning
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is, we have only seen one week. Around the league, head coaches, Sean McVay included, opted to hold out most, if not all starters during preseason. In turn, that means it may take a game or two for everyone to be completely up to the mythical “football shape.” Gurley finished the day with more carries than Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and Saquon Barkley, with only Barkley finishing with more rushing yards.
Sean McVay is smart, and he knows that if he is going to win a Super Bowl, he will need a healthy Gurley at least on the field later in the season. There is no point in feeding Gurley when there is no need to. With the game seemingly in hand in the middle of the third quarter, and with Malcolm Brown producing, resting Gurley was the smart decision. When winter arrives later in the year, with inclement weather affecting passing, you’ll want a healthy and rested Gurley.
Perception Shaping Reality
Another big factor in all of the early eulogies for Gurley’s run dominance, has been the perception of him from neutral fans and “experts” alike. In a week that saw a handful of players have fantasy football explosions, many saw his 97 yards on 14 carries as modest. To give people even more cause for pause, his understudy Malcolm Brown seemed to thrive. Finishing with two touchdowns and 53 yards on 11 carries for the day, many view that as a sign of changing times.
Admittedly, Todd Gurley may have seen his days as a fantasy feaster come to an end. The Rams are clearly, and rightfully so, taking a bit of a cautious approach with their star back. The aforementioned Brown, enjoyed a successful spell during the third quarter. Getting six carries during a 13 play drive that culminated in his second touchdown of the day. His production puts many at ease, knowing the load doesn’t need to be all on number 30. At least, not until they absolutely need it to be.
When They Needed Him Most
The biggest piece of evidence that the Los Angeles Rams still very much depend on Todd Gurley to be their workhorse, the fourth quarter. As it is in all sports, when the game is on the line, when your back is against the wall and you need a play, you look to your star player. For the Los Angeles Rams, they had that moment Week 1, and there was only one man they turned to.
Holding on to a three point lead midway through the fourth quarter, and with the ball, the Rams put together a game-icing, 7 play 57 yard drive, ending in a touchdown. The first four plays of that drive were all handoffs to Todd Gurley. He rushed for 41 yards in those four carries, setting up a short pass for the game-clinching touchdown. While the story may be Brown’s two touchdowns, and the perceived lack of carries Gurley had, one fact remains. Regardless of light or heavy, when it was needed most, Gurley did what he does best, carried the load.
The Road Ahead
The overreactions from Week 1 are nothing new in the NFL. With people so starved for anything resembling competitive professional football, every loss is the end, and win a Super Bowl ticket. For the Rams, many have said the “questions still remain” surrounding Gurley and his health. Honestly, they shouldn’t. Like any responsible coaching staff, on any responsible team, they are taking their time making sure their star returns to full strength. Not just that he returns quickly.
The fact that Sean McVay had the confidence to feed Gurley four straight times at a key moment, late in the game, and the fact he delivered, should be answer enough. Gurley is their guy, he is one of their leaders, and judging from Week 1, he looks ready to deliver. That itself, seems like the Gurley of 2018.
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