For much of this season, Rams running back Todd Gurley was touted as an MVP candidate, as he racked up 100-yard games and scored more than one rushing touchdown per game. But then a funny thing happened at the end of the season: Gurley missed two games. And the Rams didn’t miss him at all.
C.J. Anderson, who had been cut three times in the previous 10 months and assumed his season was over, showed up off the street and promptly played even better than Gurley: Anderson ran for 167 yards and a touchdown in his first game as a Ram, 132 yards and a touchdown in his second game as a Ram, and 123 yards and two touchdowns while sharing time with Gurley in the Rams’ playoff opener.
The reason the Rams could lose Gurley and get even better with a guy who’d been cut three times in 10 months is the offensive line. It might be the best run-blocking offensive line ever.
If that sounds like hyperbole, consider the Football Outsiders stat Adjusted Line Yards, which takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line. The stat magnifies plays when the running back gets tackled for a loss, as that’s usually the result of a blocking breakdown. And the stat treats any gain longer than 10 yards as if it were only a 10-yard gain, as anything beyond 10 yards usually isn’t the result of an offensive lineman’s block. By Adjusted Line Yards, the 2018 Rams set a new NFL record, with 5.49 adjusted line yards per carry.
Whether it’s Anderson stepping in from off the street and averaging 7.0 yards per carry, Gurley averaging 4.9 yards per carry, or Gurley’s backup Malcolm Brown averaging 4.9 yards per carry before he was injured late in the season, the Rams can run effectively with anyone carrying the ball. Enjoy watching Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, Rodger Saffold, Austin Blythe and John Sullivan block on Sunday. You may never see a better run-blocking offensive line.