Why LA Rams rookie RB James Gilbert will surprise everyone

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

Who is rookie RB James Gilbert? He may be a solid contributor to the LA Rams rushing attack

The LA Rams offensive attack has transformed in 2020. Previously, the LA Rams had the reliable legs of running back Todd Gurley to stomp defenses silly. Then, as the defensive backs crept up to shut down Gurley, QB Jared Goff would start sling passes downfield. By the final gun, the Rams had outscored their opponents again.  That all changed in 2019.  The legs of Todd Gurley were not so dependable. For that matter, neither was the offensive line.  The Rams converted to a passing offense, a role that young quarterback Jared Goff was not prepared to burden.

Of course, the Rams did not take that one sitting down. After cutting veteran running back Todd Gurley, the Rams added running back Cam Akers in the NFL Draft to returning veterans Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown.  The team then signed NCAA 2019 scoring star Xavier Jones. Finally, the team added 5-foot-9 198-pound running back James Gilbert out of Kansas State. Is he just a warm camp body, or does he harbor some upside for the Rams offense?

Ball carrier from Ball State

James Gilbert finished off his NCAA career with a season at Kansas State. And in his final college season, he carried the ball 141 times in 11 games, good for 737 yards and six touchdowns. That’s the performance most scouts know. But he had four previous seasons with Ball State. He ended as the seventh-ranked running back in Ball State history before moving on to Kansas State. He transferred to Kansas State to join Coach Chris Klieman and fulfill his desire to close out his college football career at a Power 5 school. Check out his 2020 Pro Day interview.

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Now he joins a new team, and much of the comments at his arrival to Kansas State apply to him today:

"” James came in really not knowing a lot about our system and has picked up things really well,” Klieman said. “He’s an extremely coach-able guy. He sees the hole and hits it. He has to continue to work on pass protection, running the routes and those things, but I’ve been really pleased with James right now.” – per interview by Kellis Robinette of Kansas.com"

He’ll make a positive impression with the LA Rams as well.

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Gilbert can play at the NFL level

At first, you might think his size works against him. But many successful NFL rushers stand at 5-foot-9.  RB Darren Sproles stood 5-foot-6. RB Maurice Drew-Jones stood 5-foot-7. RB Ray Rice was 5-foot-8.  At 5-foot-9, Gilbert is easily lost in traffic to defenders looking to make a tackle. While his 4.51-second 40-yard dash may not make your head spin, combined with his elusive running style, it’s every bit as fast as he needs to be on the football field.

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There are no guarantees for rookie James Gilbert. All he has is his dream, his speed, and his ability to grind out the yards on a football field. To many of you, that’s just not enough to concern you. But it will be up to the LA Rams coaching staff and to James Gilbert whether he has a chance to realize his dream. He could surprise many, as he is very explosive on the field. Since the Rams need players who can return the ball as well as run the ball, Gilbert has multiple avenues to make the Rams roster.