As the St. Louis Rams pick themselves up and dust themselves off from Sunday’s loss, they can take solice in being able to say they will get better as time goes on. An unfortunate start to last weekend’s game in Washington served as a sobering reminder that no team can be overlooked in this league. After a well earned victory against Seattle in Week 1, the Rams now find themselves at 1-1 heading home to St. Louis.
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The silver lining in all of this may simply be that a key player is now on the verge of returning. A player that is supposed to change the game and redefine a rushing attack in St. Louis, and give the team a serious shot of adrenaline. That player is rookie running back Todd Gurley.
Gurley was a game time decision this past Sunday against the Redskins, but it never felt quite that close to his debut. It may have been more of a strategic move to keep Gurley’s name in the fold, than to actually play him. With the return of Tre Mason and the capable Benny Cunningham, bringing Gurley in to play a very physical defense in Washington, on a notoriously poor playing surface, had bad idea written all over it, so he sat another week.
Aug 29, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) kneels before the game between the St. Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Gurley is creeping up on the one-year mark of the ACL injury he suffered while still with the University of Georgia. A meaningless play in a blow out victory over Auburn has never seemed so insignificant or far away than right now. Head coach Jeff Fisher spoke after the game on Sunday about Gurley’s status and said the team would continue to evaluate him in practice and pregame.
"“Todd is going to be week-to-week now. I thought he had a great week and we just didn’t feel good about today, so we we’ll wait and see how things go next week.”(Nick Wagoner, ESPN)"
Gurley was a full participant in practice every day last week and we should expect the same again this week. Leading up to the game in Washington, Gurley was listed as questionable and more likely a game time decision.
The return trip to St. Louis, as the team preps for Pittsburgh in Week 3, may be a more realistic return date, but anything prior to the preseason estimate of Week 6 is a victory.
Gurley will certainly be eased into an offense that could use some help running the ball. Last year’s rushing leader, Mason, saw only seven carries in his 2015 debut on Sunday, and gained a paltry 26 yards. Benny Cunningham has been holding down the fort, but has also been limited on the ground. Cunningham has 17 carries through two games for a total of 45 rushing yards. Oddly enough the Rams leading rusher to this point in the season is wide receiver Tavon Austin, who on eight carries has amassed 57 yards and one touchdown.
Part of the reason St. Louis has struggled to run the ball consistently has to be put on the offensive line. A line made up of only one veteran, this young unit has struggled to open holes for backs and provide pass protection for quarterback Nick Foles.
Sep 3, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Fisher and his staff opted not to bring in any veteran players along the line this offseason. Instead looking to fill holes through the draft. Guard Roger Saffold , the only veteran on the line, has two false start penalties through two weeks. Left tackle Greg Robinson, now in his second year, has looked shaky protecting the blind side, and the two rookies Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein are still getting settled.
Through two weeks of the regular season the Rams have racked up 143 rushing yards on 39 attempts. That comes to 3.6 yards-per-carry. That’s not very good for a team that, under Fisher, is supposed to be committed to controlling the game through running the ball and controlling the clock. St. Louis has lost the time of possession game in both regular season games.
St. Louis needs to dig their heels in and come back strong against a vulnerable Pittsburgh Steelers team in Week 3. Nothing helps you get the bad taste of a loss out of your mouth like the sweet taste of victory. Debuting one of the most highly touted prospects in franchise history is also a huge step in the right direction.