If there’sis pretty much tired of hearing and talking about this offseason, it’s .
After eight straight months of answering questions about that body part, even Rams coach Sean McVay reached his breaking point this week.
During an interview at training camp on Tuesday, McVay was asked if he ever gets tired of questions about Gurley’s knee and the Rams coach gave a brutally honest answer.
“I do,” McVay said, via quotes from the team. “And you know what, with a player of his caliber that’s as special as he is, that’s to be expected.”
Gurley is also getting tired of all the questions about his knee. As a matter of fact, he would like the media to stop asking questions about his most famous body part and that’s because he doesn’t think it’s helping things.
“Y’all have got to stop putting this bad energy in my knee, man,” Gurley said to the media on July 27. “Just let it be.”
Fine, Todd. You win. We’re going to let it be. Instead of talking about Gurley’s knee here, we’re going to talk about what will happen at running back for the Rams if Gurley can’t make it through the entire season due to his knee.
The job for the backup running back spot in Los Angeles is suddenly one of the most intriguing battles in any NFL training camp, and that’s because the player who wins the job could see some serious playing time in 2019.
Even if Gurley’s knee stays healthy, the Rams are intent on not overworking their star running back, which means the No. 2 guy on the depth chart is likely going to get a lot of carries.
So who will end up getting the carries that don’t go to Gurley?
Let’s take a look.
Check out all our training camp battle stories here.
If you need any proof that the Rams plan to lighten Gurley’s load in 2019, just look at what they did in the draft this year. With their second pick, which came in the third round, the Rams selected Memphis running back Darrell Henderson, who was basically untacklable in college (Untackable isn’t technically a word, but it probably will be after the people at Webster’s dictionary watch Henderson play). During his senior season at Memphis, Henderson averaged an absurd 8.9 yards per carry and that came on 214 carries.
Here’s highlight reel of him making long runs, which is basically what happened on every run he made in college.
Although it’s still early in training camp, Henderson has already been impressing McVay.
“Darrell, he’s got a nice even-keeled demeanor, it doesn’t seem like he gets fazed by anything,” McVay said. “You are starting to see him flash. A comfortable level, playing a little bit faster. You can feel he’s not thinking as much. It’s still early, but he has definitely shown the encouraging things that we liked so much on tape in Memphis.”
The only way Henderson is going to see extended playing time in 2019 is if he learns the offense quickly, and apparently, that’s exactly what’s happening.
“He’s got a nice demeanor about himself, very exciting skill set, but he is a young player,” McVay said. “I’ve been impressed with how quickly he’s picked it up.”
According to Yahoo Sports, the Rams plan to use Henderson in a similar role that Chris Thompson had with the Redskins in 2016. If you’re wondering what the Redskins have to do with any of this, it’s the fact that McVay was their offense coordinator in 2016, a year where Thompson handled 18 percent of Washington’s carries (68 carries, 356 yards) and caught 12 percent of the team’s completions (49). What this means is that Henderson is going to be touching the ball a lot. The Rams are going to do whatever it takes to keep Gurley fresh this year and Henderson will likely be the back who benefits the most from that.
After watching CJ Anderson carry the Rams through the end of the 2018 season, it seemed like a no-brainer to bring him back for 2019, but that didn’t happen, and if you’re wondering why, it’s because of Brown. The 26-year-old has been with the Rams since his rookie year in 2015 — the same year Gurley arrived — and he’s become the perfect complement to his more famous teammate. Brown might not have the finesse of a Gurley or Henderson, but he’s a battering ram (5-11, 222 pounds) who can block and come up with big plays when called upon. In 2018, Brown averaged 4.9 yards per rush on 43 carries. Brown would have seen more playing time after last year after Gurley’s knee started acting up, but Brown suffered his own injury (clavicle), which ended his season in Week 13, which led to the arrival of Anderson.
The Rams like Brown so much that they actually matched his offer sheet in March when the Lions tried to steal him away. Brown has averaged 53 carries per year over the past two seasons and it wouldn’t be surprising if those numbers go up in 2019, assuming he stays healthy, which he hasn’t been able to do lately. Not only did Brown miss the final four games of the 2018 season, but he also missed five games in 2017.
Brown will definitely be getting the ball in 2019, but he likely won’t be getting as many touches as Henderson, and that’s because Brown isn’t as effective as he is in the receiving game. That being said, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Brown get 60-80 carries in 2019.
Others: John Kelly and Justin Davis
Although both of these guys were on the roster last year, there’s a good chance that only one of them will be making the cut in 2019. With the Rams likely to keep four running backs, that means these two will most likely be competing for the final spot. As things currently stand, the slight advantage probably goes to Davis and that’s because of his ability to play special teams. Davis played in 11 games last year, with most of that coming on special teams, although he did carry the ball two times fo 19 yards.
As for Kelly, he was on the inactive list for the first 12 games of the season in 2018 and he didn’t see his first action until the Rams started running out of running backs in December. Although the Rams might be hesitant to get rid of a guy that just drafted in 2018 — Kelly was selected in the sixth-round — the fact of the matter is that he has a similar skillset to Henderson, which is likely going to make him expendable.