Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley had an extremely productive rookie season in 2015 when the Rams were still in St. Louis. The former University of Georgia running back had 229 carries for 1,106 yards and ten touchdowns on the ground in 2015. He also added 21 catches for 188 yards in 13 games and took home the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. But, despite that production, Gurley has stated he doesn’t want 30 carries per game, saying:
“Nobody wants to carry the ball 30 times a game,” he said. “It’s not the 1980s no more.”
And that philosophy is really smart.
Todd Gurley Reducing Carries Per Game Would Be Smart
On the face of it, Gurley saying he wants fewer carries seems ludicrous. Every talented sports star wants the ball in their hands all the time. They want to be the one making plays. But in reality, looking at what Gurley said and thinking about it for a second, it becomes apparent that the talented back is correct to want fewer carries.
Gurley Wants Fewer Carries, Not Touches
Fantasy owners, relax. Gurley wants less carries, not touches. He wants to be more involved in the passing game.
“It’s cool getting more involved in the passing game—better than having 11 guys coming straight at you when you are running the ball,” he said. “You get to at least avoid a couple hits.”
Gurley wants to have 20-25 carries per game and increase his role in the Rams passing game. This is smart for two reasons.
Evolution of NFL Offenses
There are still some really talented running backs, but the NFL continues to become more of a passing league. Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is arguably the most valuable running back in the league. One of the reasons for that is Bell contributes in a big way to the Steelers passing game. If Gurley can improve at catching the ball out of the backfield and the Rams can target him five to ten times per game that will help both Gurley and the Rams be more productive.
Fewer Carries Better for Gurley’s Long Term Health
Football is a violent sport. Measures can be taken to make it safer, but football will take a toll on a player’s body more than any other game. Gurley catching the ball in space more frequently instead of having 30+ carries per game could help last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year stay healthy and in the league longer.
The average NFL career lasts approximately three and a half to four years. Running backs who are lucky enough to remain in the league see a substantial drop-off in productivity at age 30. Limiting the number of hits he takes running the ball could help Gurley extend his career.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, who hasn’t really bought into the whole pass-first philosophy, but he needs to buy want Gurley is selling. This is Fisher’s 22nd season as an NFL head coach and his teams have finished above .500 just six times. It might be time for Fisher to change his philosophy and embrace the passing game. Gurley could be a big part of that.
The Rams objective with respect to Gurley should be to keep him healthy and on the field and to get the ball in his hands often. Reducing Gurley’s carries and utilizing him in the passing game is an easy way to accomplish those objectives and it just might help them win some games.