Boy, have I missed Todd Gurley.
Of course, when I say that, I’m referring to the version of Gurley that we saw in 2015, when the no. 10 overall pick in that year’s draft rushed to near-instant superstardom with an incredible four-game debut stretch as a rookie. In his first four games as the Rams’ starter (he played sparingly in Week 3 after being medically cleared, then took over the job), Gurley rushed for a total of 566 yards and three touchdowns, quickly validating the team’s decision to take a running back, let alone one with concerns over a medically repaired ACL, that high in the draft and make him the centerpiece of their offense.
That Gurley looked like a cornerstone player for the Rams. That guy finished his first season with 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games en route to Offensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl honors. That guy represented the bright spot for an offense that didn’t have much to celebrate: At best, he looked like a talent they could build around; at worst, a fun player to watch even if the Rams continued to go 7-9 for the rest of eternity.
But that version of Gurley was missing in action most of last year. He struggled to pick the right running lanes; rarely escaped tackle attempts; and, after averaging 4.83 yards per carry as a rookie, finished his sophomore campaign with just 885 yards and six scores while averaging 3.18 yards per tote. It was fair to question whether ousted coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams had ruined an elite talent.
Even with the Rams walloping the Colts 46-9 in Week 1, the fears about Gurley lingered. Tasked with salting the game away on the ground, Gurley gained just 40 yards on 19 attempts for an average of 2.11 yards per carry. He did get into the end zone, but it wasn’t the type of performance that fans of the depressed franchise hoped for under new playcaller and head coach Sean McVay.
So even though the Rams lost a wild one to Washington on Sunday, 27-20, Gurley looking like his rookie-year self served as a very bright silver lining. Gurley hurdled over multiple defenders and ran through and around the Washington defense to the tune of 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground, with another 48 yards and a score through the air.
Oh Todd Gurley.....what a play. pic.twitter.com/n0D517eZQg— Brad Russell (@TheFFLCommish) September 17, 2017
The third-year back showcased creativity and explosiveness while also displaying vision and elusiveness. In short, he looked like a star again. Gurley’s 136 scrimmage yards on the day were his most since Week 14 of his rookie season. Along with more encouraging play from quarterback Jared Goff (who finished the game with 224 yards passing, one touchdown, and one interception for an 86.1 passer rating), the Rams’ offense is showing some signs of life under McVay. That didn’t translate into a win on Sunday, but if Gurley really has rediscovered his Pro Bowl form, it’s going to pay huge dividends for the Rams offense as a whole this year. Nothing’s more important to that franchise right now than Goff’s continued development as a pro passer, and a foundational run game takes pressure off of him to carry the offense.