The NFL Network ran a segment today on the Los Angeles Rams called "more or less" where they set a bunch of random over/unders and talked about where they thought the Rams would fall in 2016. It's the kind of fly-by analysis that populates most television sports analysis because it allows for the equality of outcomes. Yanno, fair and balanced. Embrace debate.
Since I can't embed, it's five minutes of relatively empty material, but hey. It's June 16. Knock yourself out. Just take note of one over/under that got a bit out of hand:
Colleen Wolfe: "Let's talk about Todd Gurley. Had over 1,100 rushing yards in just 13 games, so more or less - 1,500 yards in 2016?"
Bryant McFadden: That's a big number. Great player...less. I have to go less. Not based on Todd Gurley, but based on what he will see. This upcoming season on their schedule, they have five teams that were top 10 in rush defense in 2015. Granted, two of these teams are the Seahawks and the Cardinals. They're gonna play them twice. So that's a very, very tough task for Todd Gurley to see especially when teams realize they're facing a rookie quarterback and their best player is their running back, a guy that they will load the box against.
Elliot Harrison: ...I gotta yell ya, they played the Seahawks and Cardinals last year, and I watched Gurley, his first start, ok, go for a buck-fifty on the Cardinals. He ran through them like they weren't even there. That was on the road, and the Rams won that game. I think he is going to pass 1,600 yards easy. Easy. I think he averages over 100 yards again because of all the things that you're talking about. They're gonna have to rely on him. He just may not average as many yards per carry. It may take more attempts.
Now look. It's comfortable to project some kind of improvement for Todd Gurley in 2016. He's incredibly talented, he's charismatic (Carl's Jr.!), and he was the lone bright spot on the Rams' offense last season.
But there's just so much you have to bank on to agree with Harrison.
You've got to assume he stays healthy which is a tough ask for a running back who's likely headed for a top five slot in the carries column in the NFL in 2016.
You've got to assume he finds more consistency in 2016, both on and individual basis and in sync with his offensive line (the latter of which was a much bigger issue in 2015 that seems to not get raised enough since).
But perhaps the biggest impediment to the 1,500 yard mark for Gurley in 2016? Fisherball.
Then reality struck.
Teams started loading up on the Rams in run defense and forcing the passing game to beat them. It rarely happened. The offensive line struggled. Quarterback play was ineffective. The receiving corps lacked sufficient talent to win downfield and open space underneath for Tavon Austin to spread the linebackers out. After that four-game stretch of 140+ yards on average, Gurley averaged just 52 yards per game in the next five games. In three of those games, he registered 12 or less carries. And against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12, he carried the ball nine times for 19 yards.
That's what's likely going to keep JTG from 1,500 yards. Not a lack of individual talent. A lack of surrounding talent and sufficient systemic support to take advantage of that individual talent coupled with the inherent risk of missing a couple of games due to injury.
And that's the problem with the Rams. They're pumping up Gurley as the centerpiece of the offense making roster moves that do absolutely nothing in any other facet of the game and hoping that's enough to improve the league's 32nd-ranked offense in yards from 2015 to a degree that bodes success.
He can only do so much as a running back. There's far too much hype being placed on Gurley and really most of the Rams right now.
Jared Goff has already mastered the offense. Gregg Williams has created a "monster" in Alec Ogletree. Everybody is poised for a breakout season. Everyone will improve on their 2015 season. Nobody will regress. Everything is trending up.
And nobody's taking more of that on than Just Todd Gurley.
Given the pace of how much hype is being placed on his shoulders, the unrealistic nature of many of those expectations might need to be pointed out a few more times in the run up to the 2016 season.