Ever since the drama around Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley’s knee turned from the end of the 2018 season toward the buildup for 2019, the reporting around the team’s plan for him was to “take the load off so Todd Gurley can be better later in the season as opposed to maybe not having as much left.” It’s those plans that motivated NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport to suggest that “the days of Todd Gurley just being the straight-up, every-down bell cow are probably over.” After visiting with the Rams during training camp last week, Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson tabbed Gurley to take just 65% of the running back snaps this season.
Whether or not Robinson’s figures are accurate, I think we can all anticipate a reduced workload for Gurley this season to ensure less “wear and tear” as the Rams gear up for a playoff run in December and then to hopefully make another run once we get to the postseason.
So let’s assume that Gurley will be as healthy for Week 1 of the regular season this year as he was for Week 1 last year. Let’s also assume that the condition of his knee means that it’s more susceptible to aggravation and more likely to delay rehabilitation with each hit. Last year, Gurley aggravated the knee in Week 1, and it was in good enough condition to play the next week (and take 19 carries, FWIW). He aggravated it again in Week 15, and...well, away we went.
So if the Rams want to ensure he’s fresher than recent years by reducing the workload, there’s a question to be asked.
When should Gurley see his workload reduced to keep him fresh late in the regular season into the playoffs?
Reduced workload early
This one wouldn’t make a ton of sense to me, but I suppose there’s an argument to be made about easing him into the season. As I mentioned above, we learned from Gurley himself (albeit in late December) that he had initially aggravated his knee in the season opener against the Oakland Raiders.
Given that Gurley’s on reduced training schedule this offseason and won’t even play in the preseason, is it wise to roll him out Week 1 to take a ton of snaps and carries? It’s not as if the Carolina Panthers aren’t aware of Gurley’s condition. That’s not to say they’re going to target the knee or do anything unprofessional, but more that it’s a known issue they’re going to be prepared for. Same for the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 and the Cleveland Browns in Week 3.
And given the quality of those three teams, the Rams are going to be challenged out of the gate. They certainly don’t want to start the season off 1-2 and head to Seattle in Week 5 without a winning record, so there’s a delicate balance early on. Perhaps should the Rams build up an early lead against those teams, that might signal an opportunity for Rams Head Coach Sean McVay to pull Gurley.
Still, would this be the right time to limit him?
Reduced workload in the middle of the season
I could see the logic here.
Play Gurley heavily the first few weeks to put your best foot forward against some tough competition. Then as you get into October, pull back on the reins with the bye week offering additional rest in Week 9 before the schedule gets really tough again in November.
That would, though, expose him early in the season coming off the reduced offseason work and late just as the Rams get ready for a playoff push. Consider it was his late season work that re-aggravated the knee. But maybe a midseason rest would allow Darrell Henderson to be eased into his rookie season against some tough competition before taking over heading into the bye week to keep Todd light.
Reduced workload late
The logic here is obvious. Gurley needs to be fresh for the playoffs and last year showed us just how risky it is to play him in December after a season of wear and tear.
Should the Rams carry a strong record through November as they did last year, it would be even less worrisome to limit Gurley down the stretch; should, though, the Rams have a record closer to .500, it might be tough to keep him out in games the Rams would need to win to ensure a playoff berth and/or a first-round bye and home field advantage.
The other key here is that Henderson will have established himself by this point. He’ll have had plenty of opportunity to get in the groove of his rookie season and will likely have had some plus performances. As opposed to leaning on Hendo early hoping he comes out as a star, waiting until the end of the season to increase his rookie workload could be based more on the results leading up to that point versus forcing him into the limelight to begin his career. Remember that Gurley’s return to the field in the playoffs didn’t exclude C.J. Anderson by any means; instead, the Rams claimed a preference of sorts to “ride the hot hand.” For the Rams to justify that with Henderson means he’ll have to get hot in the first place.
Reduced workload throughout the season/sporadically
I’d think this is the most likely option and the least structured allowing for the most flexibility.
That flexibility is probably the driving factor given that Gurley’s availability will be a week-to-week decision making process. So instead of forcing a reduced role through a specific part of the schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gurley gets 16 carries one week, four the next and then 14 in a third game.
I mentioned the Week 1 situation from last year. Gurley aggravated the knee, but it felt good by midweek; he took 19 carries the next game. Should Gurley aggravate the knee at any point this season regardless of how it responds over the next week, would the Rams even entertain the idea of giving him 19 carries given everything that’s taken place over the last 12 months? Bear in mind what McVay said heading into Week 17 last year after preemptively shutting Gurley down to end the regular season:
It is important for us to get him back to full speed and to the health that he feels like he can go compete at and we’re not doing anything to put him at risk and he’s not doing anything for the longevity of his career.
For the longevity of his career.
That’s what we’re talking about here, ultimately. The need to reduce his workload for the longevity of his career. To reduce his exposure to the kind of damage that threaten the longevity of his career.
Todd’s a pro. We know if he can go, he’s going to go. If the coaching staff shuts him down, he’ll likely take it like he did last year. As a professional and a consummate team player.
But the bottom line is Gurley is going to have a reduced workload this year. He needs to have as much.
But when does that reduction take place?
When will Gurley’s workload be reduced in 2019?
This poll is closed