Will the Rams miss Todd Gurley’s rushing?

Super Bowl VIII – The Los Angeles Rams held the New England Patriots to just thirteen points. A fantastic achievement for the defence. The only thing that they couldn’t do to help win the game, was to put points on the board, as the Patriots defence also came to play holding the Rams to just three points.

This was a stark contrast to the previous year where they shipped 41 points to a Nick Foles lead Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots bounced back and got to the Super Bowl the next year. So the Rams fans may be forgiven for thinking “Why not us? Why can’t we do it?”

The Rams were really good on both sides of the ball for most of that 2018 Season. Then late on, star running back Todd Gurley II was put on a snap count. After performing well it transpired that he had knee issues that caused him to not play in the final two weeks of the regular season. This a year into his $60m extension with LA. He had suffered from knee trouble in his college career at Georgia along with at the start of his rookie campaign with the Rams, so this shouldn’t have been an unknown as far as his perceived health was concerned.

2019 saw Gurley’s workload diminish – especially early on – from previous seasons along with the potency of the offence, coincidentally or not. In the games I watched (I felt obliged to watch as I had Gurley on my fantasy team) it felt to me, that the Rams were passing… too much.

Around 62% of their plays on offence were passing plays, ranking them eighth in this statistic. Quarterback Jared Goff – fresh off signing an improved deal – had a completion percentage of 62.94% ranking him twentieth in this category. The touchdown to interception ratio increased on the previous season (32/12 in 2018 compared with 22/16 in 2019).

Was Goff just suffering from a Super Bowl hangover, where during that game he looked rattled and almost confused by the smothering Patriots Defence?

There have been a few comings and goings on the defence, with veteran players such as Eric Weddle leaving and Pro Bowl Corner Jalen Ramsey being acquired from Jacksonville. The main constant on the defence again lies in the shape of Aaron Donald. The defensive tackle, after a slow start by his standards, averaged around a sack a game from October onwards. He was placed third in the NFL Top 100 players and it is obvious how much of a disruptive force he is in the trenches.

2020 – has this supposed Super Bowl hangover passed?

Gurley was released by the organization in March before another sizable chunk guaranteed money was owed – clearly showing they were not willing to put any more risk on the shoulders (or knee) of their former superstar. No big free-agent running back has come in his place (they are all going to be available next year) so for now, the attack will be led by rookie Cam Ackers and returning players Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods will be the main receiving options but rookie Van Jefferson seems to be catching the eye of the coaching staff and is expected to challenge to be third on the receiving depth chart.

On the defensive side of the ball, the previously mentioned Jalen Ramsey will be the main player in the secondary for the Rams. The price they have paid for him – and for others – when LA was in ‘win now’ mode with some of their trades, may be very high due to the lack of first-round draft picks until 2022.

Another notable departure, is co-ordinator Wade Phillips, paving the way for Brandon Staley in his first professional defensive co-ordinator role, after previously being a linebackers coach in both Chicago and Denver.

The Rams will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing 2019 campaign. They will aim to try and claim a wild card spot but this will be a tough ask in a division that has the Cardinals (many people’s dark horse in the NFC), Seattle (consistently in the playoff hunt) and the NFC Champion San Francisco 49’ers. (Will the 49’ers also suffer a Super Bowl hangover?)

You can read more about the NFC West and the rest of the NFC division here

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