Rams Head Coach Sean McVay has denied it and has used his coachspeak to avoid admitting to limiting Gurley’s opportunities, but through five games there’s no denying that Gurley is being used much, much less than a year ago.
Gurley’s first five games in 2018: 101 carries, 415 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs, 25 targets, 19 receptions, 230 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs.
Gurley’s first five games in 2019: 64 carries (↓36.63%), 270 rushing yards (↓34.94%), 5 rushing TDs (↓28.57%), 22 targets (↓12.00%), 14 receptions (↓26.32%), 68 receiving yards (↓70.43%), 0 receiving TDs (↓100.00%)
Yeah. Pretty overwhelming.
We knew things were going to be week-to-week, but the volatility has been a bit over-the-top. In Week 1, Gurley had 14 carries (above his 2019 average of 12.8 carries per game but well below his 2018 average of 20.2), but that was balanced against RB Malcolm Brown and his 11 carries. Brown’s usage has petered off since with Mally picking up just one carry in Week 5. Gurley’s season took a weird turn in Week 4 when he had just five carries, but then we had last week’s 15-carry response. In Week 5, Gurley had seven carries in the first 14 offensive plays. He had eight carries over the final 53 plays.
What’s interesting is that Gurley’s decline in opportunities hasn’t results in more of them for other running backs. Instead, the recipient of more inputs has been QB Jared Goff.
Goff’s first five games in 2018: 166 attempts, 120 completions, 1,727 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
Goff’s first five games in 2019: 222 attempts (↑33.73%), 140 completions (↑16.67%), 1,649 passing yards (↓4.52%), 7 touchdowns (↓41.67%), 7 interceptions (↑75.00%).
Goff’s his own story overall this year, but there’s no doubt his increased usage is directly tied to the lower inputs from Gurley and the running game. So while there’s a huge decline in opportunities and outputs for the running game, it’s been weird.
I’d expect the same moving forward. Could Gurley have a half dozen carries in Week 6 against the San Francisco 49ers? Of course. Is Brown in for a breakout weekend? Perhaps. Could rookie RB Darrell Henderson, Jr., get his first big opportunity? Wouldn’t rule it out!
After Week 1, we looked at the “plan” for Gurley following FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer claiming, “The Rams are kinda going into this blind. They have no idea how the knee’s going to respond today or any week this season.” I closed that piece with this:
We know that the 2017 and 2018 seasons don’t offer any kind of blueprint for what we’ll see moving forward.
This is new territory for the Rams and Gurley. Prepare to head into the unknown.
And now after five weeks of the 2019 season...yeah. Through the tunnel of the unknown we continue.