Even as the Rams seek balance, Todd Gurley will keep doing it all
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The reminders are constant.
“They tell me during the game, ‘We’re not going to give you nothing,’” Gurley said. “’So, you’re going to have to earn it.’”
Through five games, Gurley certainly has.
Set to face the Denver Broncos on Sunday, the Rams are undefeated and feature the top-ranked offense in the NFL, averaging 468.4 yards and 34.6 points per game.
Gurley leads the league with nine touchdowns and ranks third in yards from scrimmage with 645.
While the profile of quarterback Jared Goff continues to rise, and receivers Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp attract growing attention from opposing defenses, make no mistake: Gurley remains at the center of coach Sean McVay’s explosive scheme.
And he won’t let teammates forget it.
“I tell those guys they need me out there,” Gurley said, laughing. “I tell them, ‘Thank me all the time.’ When I go in motion and they get their little touchdowns.”
Gurley, of course, was joking.
But teammates constantly commend the fourth-year pro for his ability to contribute in every facet of the game — whether he’s running, catching, blocking or serving as a decoy.
“When you’re a running back that has the ability to do, really, everything in terms of running the ball, catching the ball out of the backfield, protection,” McVay said, “he’s an important part of our offense, no doubt.”
Gurley has been effective in space and is a proven threat at the goal line. He’s also attracted enough attention to open up the passing game.
“When we’re able to do our play-action stuff and he’s the guy that we’re faking to,” Goff said, “adds a little bit of emphasis on those linebackers stepping up and everyone having to fill in a little bit more when he’s the one that could potentially get the ball there.”
Last Sunday, Gurley rushed for three touchdowns — all within 5 yards of the goal line — in a victory over the Seattle Seahawks. In a Week 2 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Gurley rushed for 1- and 2-yard scores, plus powered his way across the goal line for two two-point conversions.
His longest run of the season came in a Week 1 win at Oakland, when he took a handoff and broke through a hole on the left side of the line to rush for 23 yards. And against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4, he took a short pass and turned it into a 56-yard gain after breaking a tackle.
Gurley’s numbers are on pace with those of last season, which earned him NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Through five games, he has rushed for 415 yards and seven touchdowns and has caught 19 passes for 230 yards and two more scores.
He is averaging 4.1 yards per carry and 12.1 yards per reception.
And yet Goff and his receivers are getting more attention and praise. Really, however, it’s the natural development of the Rams offense.
“We want to have a well-balanced offense,” Gurley said. “It starts with the run, then the play-action and then everything else is going to take care of itself.”
But Goff said it was Gurley’s ability to block, a skill set that can sometimes go unnoticed, that has continued to set him apart — and helps the passing game.
“It’s just rare a back can run the way he does and then be so good in protection, so smart and understand the protection fully and then catch out of the backfield as well,” Goff said. “He’s a guy that we can leave him in there on third downs and be comfortable with him picking up linebackers and picking up corner blitzes and everything.”
Before the start of the season, Gurley was awarded the richest contract in NFL history for a running back when he signed a four-year, $60 million extension, with $45 million guaranteed. That contract was reached, in part, because of his well-rounded skill set.
The 6-foot-1, 224-pound Gurley takes pride throughout the practice week in studying his opponents, especially defensive backs, and how he can best protect Goff.
“Different guys are going to do different stuff. Might get a spin move, you might get a fake and try to come underneath,” Gurley said. “You just try to do your job and stay grounded, not try to go for all the movement. Just study, and that’s why we practice.
“One thing about this league is if you’re not going to block for the quarterback, then they don’t care who you are, you’re not going to be in the backfield.”
As the Rams prepare for the Broncos (2-3), Gurley said he knows he will continue to be the focal point of most defenses. Those teams can warn him all they want, but so far it hasn’t mattered much.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to line up, we’re going to run the ball,” Gurley said. “And you’re still just going to have to stop us.”
October 13, 2018 at 06:33AM