Halfway through the 2019 season, Rams running back Todd Gurley is on pace for a career-low-by-far 184 rushing attempts. The conversation regarding the 2017 offensive player of the year continues to dance around the obvious connection between his 2019 workload and his 2018 knee injury.
On Wednesday, a reporter asked coach Sean McVay not about Gurley’s knee but whether McVay is “happy” that Gurley doesn’t have 160 carries through eight games.
“I don’t know that I would say that,” McVay said, “because it’s never really been something where we’re looking at a pitch count, a workload. We want to be the most efficient offense we can possibly be. Certainly, if you said, ‘What would your pick be?’ I’d much rather see some of the production that we’ve seen over the years past.
“What I do think is important to emphasize is that it certainly is not exclusive to what Todd can control. There’s a lot of factors that have gone into that and what I love is the way that he’s continued to compete. He’s made his presence felt in some different ways that aren’t exclusive to what show up on the stat sheet, but it sure is appreciated in this building with some of the things you see him do protection-wise and just demonstrating an unselfish approach for a player like him.”
Again, it’s not as if it’s Gurley’s call, and the unspoken reality is that Gurley has a limited workload in order to prevent a recurrence of whatever it was that caused him to fall apart down the stretch last season.
Through half of the season, Gurley has 92 carries for 355 yards in 2019, along with 15 catches for 81 yards. That puts him on pace for 710 rushing yards and 162 receiving yards.
McVay explained that he believes the offense benefits from having three reliable running backs (Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson), and McVay added that he believes that the goal is to get into a “enough of a rhythm where you allow those guys to get into the flow of the game.”
“You do still want to be considerate of the fact that I think football can be a flow-type feel — especially when you’re a running back and you get a guy going, you get him into a rhythm, you’ve got to get plays off, you’ve got to be efficient on those early downs,” McVay said. “I think for us overall, it’s about maximizing our early-down opportunities, not putting yourself in those negative situations where now you can truly present a legitimate run-pass balance that puts defenses in conflict. That’s one of the things that we have to do a better job of — making people pay with both phases. If you’re going to be a really good offense in this league, you have to be able to do both and those are things that we’re constantly striving to do better collectively. I’m confident that hopefully we’ll see some good, positive results and it’s going to be a tough challenge against the Steelers this week.”
McVay still regards Gurley as a “big-time player,” and Gurley definitely is. The question remains whether he can continue to absorb the pounding that goes along with being a workhorse tailback. The team’s decision to use him on a limited basis through the first eight games of 2019 suggests that the answer is no. It will be interesting to see whether the Rams ramp up his overall workload as the season progresses — especially since the Rams will need to perform better than they did in the first half of the season, if they hope to get back to the playoffs.