One of the more fascinating storylines among the Los Angeles Rams in 2019 has been their usage of the running back group. Looking at it from afar, the Rams have three capable players in their backfield, but have yet to truly figure out the best rotation among the three.
Here are some statistics between them (stats from Pro Football Reference):
107 touches, 436 yards from scrimmage, 4.1 yards/touch, 7 touchdowns
33 touches, 156 yards from scrimmage, 4.7 yards/touch, 0 touchdowns
38 touches, 164 yards from scrimmage, 4.3 yards/touch, 2 touchdowns
Among the surface-level stats, here is a deeper dive into the actual numbers:
Rush yards after contact per rush:
Rush attempts per broken tackle:
When attempting to analyze the division in the RB room, it becomes evident that on a per-touch basis, both Brown and Henderson are currently more productive than Gurley. The reasoning behind why isn’t exactly known, but Gurley has lacked explosion and simply doesn’t look the same as vintage Gurley right now. The lack of a good run blocking line doesn’t help any of the three, but it doesn’t explain the difference between the three as all of them are dealing with the same offensive line.
In terms of pure explosion and the potential for big plays, Henderson is the leader in the clubhouse. His lack of usage as a receiver doesn’t allow us to make any definitive statements, though he’d likely be a weapon in that regard. He has looked explosive, decisive, and has churned out yardage while maintaining contact balance throughout.
The toughest grinder among the trio is Brown, as he routinely breaks tackles, creates extra yardage, and collects more yardage than what is initially blocked by his movement ability. Brown hasn’t played the past few weeks due to injury, but he’ll be back this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Gurley on the other hand, has yet to truly break loose, and maybe never will in 2019. Thus far, his lack of explosion hasn’t offered a ton to the backfield, but everyone is aware of what he’s capable of, and that is why his usage is worth continuing to explore during this season.
Still, with the idea of preserving #30 and allowing him to be healthy down the road, the Rams would be wise to use more of Brown and Henderson, particularly as runners. Both have broken tackles and created yardage at a better clip, and the underlying factor is the more the other two are used, the more Gurley is preserved down the line. None of the runners are used much in the receiving game, but Gurley is likely the best among the trio as a receiving threat, and should be used more as a weapon in the open field.
The usage in the RB room is something the Rams are still figuring out and it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward. The one positive for the Rams is all three guys have shown to be capable of producing, because there hasn’t been any drop-off from starter to second-string to third-string.