The 2019 Los Angeles Rams’ running game to this point has been...weird.
A month ago after the Rams’ Week 5 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, I took a look at RB Todd Gurley’s declined usage compared to his previous seasons. Since then, if it’s possible, it’s gotten weirder? Gurley missed the Week 6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers with a thigh contusion and returned for the two routs thereafter.
So let’s take a look at the ground game in 2019 and what might lie ahead:
RB Todd Gurley
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%)
That was from that early October look.
Here’s the updated numbers after seven games:
Gurley’s first seven games in 2018: 144 carries, 686 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs, 35 targets, 25 receptions, 270 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs.
Gurley’s first seven games in 2019: 92 carries (↓36.11%), 355 rushing yards (↓48.25%), 6 rushing TDs (↓45.45%), 24 targets (↓31.43%), 15 receptions (↓40.00%), 81 receiving yards (↓70.00%), 1 receiving TDs (↓66.66%)
Not sure there’s much to say that hasn’t already been said. Gurley’s been used less, obviously. He’s doing less with less averaging more than a yard less per carry and more than four yards less per reception. What that means moving forward? No clue.
We know it’s going to be a week-to-week process as it was in the first half. How that works it self out over the next eight games...TBD.
RB Malcolm Brown
Brown missed the last two games with an ankle injury but contributed substantially prior especially in Weeks 1 and 6. We’ll see if he’s finally good to go again when the initial injury report drops on Wednesday, but he could factor in immediately if so.
The X-factor here might be what we’ve seen the last two weeks from...
RB Darrell Henderson, Jr.
Hendo finally got a chance to get some legitimate playing time the last three weeks with Gurley’s Week 6 absence and Brown being on the sideline the last two games. The numbers weren’t overwhelming, but his explosiveness might have been. Juxtaposed against Gurley, Hendo looked much more sprite and might have earned a larger share of the jobshare coming out of the bye. I say might, because I have little to no certainty about how the Rams are going to approach this overall let alone in Week 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The offensive line
This might be the elephant in the room. Whether it’s Gurley or Brown or Hendo, none have been the recipient of the kind of consistent room to operate that Gurley and former Rams RB C.J. Anderson enjoyed in 2018. Part of that has been declined performance from the veteran tackles in LT Andrew Whitworth and RT Rob Havenstein. Part of that has been poor play from the interior linemen. But part of that also has been the changing personnel that has included Joseph Noteboom at left guard, Brian Allen at center, Austin Blythe at right guard, Jamil Demby at both guard spots and (seemingly) now David Edwards at left guard. Should the Edwards-Allen-Blythe trio be locked in for the future, perhaps that could help get more consistency in their performances ahead.
What’s heartening is that the talent around the offensive line should lower the bar for them. Between the running backs and the passing game targets, there’s a TON of talent that can make even mediocre blocking adequate. We’ll need QB Jared Goff to elevate the offense and play better under duress, but that’s kind of the challenge a fourth-year quarterback deserves to face.
The numbers aren’t great. The performances overall haven’t been either. They’ve got a negative rushing DVOA per Football Outsiders. The Rams are averaging less than 100 yards per game which puts them in the bottom half of the league. They’re averaging less than four yards per carry which puts them in the bottom third.
Yes, the Rams need to get better on the ground. The question is whether or not the Rams can get to the playoffs if it doesn’t. We’ll see if that question needs to be asked if the ground game doesn’t get going coming out of the bye.