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Was Rams coach Sean McVay out of touch with use of Todd Gurley?

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  • Was Rams coach Sean McVay out of touch with use of Todd Gurley?

    Was Rams coach Sean McVay out of touch with use of Todd Gurley?
    By RICH HAMMOND | rhammond@scng.com | Orange County Register
    PUBLISHED: December 11, 2017 at 7:08 pm | UPDATED: December 11, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    THOUSAND OAKS — For all the good that Coach Sean McVay has brought to the Rams this year — an enormous amount — a persistent question remains. What’s going on with Todd Gurley’s usage?

    The Rams are 7-0 when Gurley touches the ball at least 20 times in a game, either on handoffs or receptions, and they’re 2-4 when he doesn’t reach that mark. Gurley had 16 touches for 135 yards on Sunday in the Rams’ loss to Philadelphia, which tied his lowest touch total of the season.

    That requires some context. The Rams ran only 45 offensive plays against the Eagles, so Gurley’s touches accounted for 35.6 percent of their offense, which is on par with his usage all season.
    Still, McVay’s usage of Gurley didn’t pass the eye test. Philadelphia entered the game with a superb run defense that had averaged only 3.5 yards allowed per attempt, but Gurley ran for 30 yards on the Rams’ second play and scored a touchdown on the next play. Gurley averaged 7.4 yards per rush attempt.

    Gurley and the Rams’ offensive line clearly could move the ball against the Eagles, but Gurley had only 13 carries (for 96 yards), while quarterback Jared Goff attempted 26 passes (and completed 16).

    “Any time we’re running the football like that, I’ve got to do a better job of making sure that he gets enough touches to get into the flow, especially when we’re getting some good movement,” McVay said during his Monday news conference at Cal Lutheran.

    “It is a delicate balance. At the end of the day, however you want to cut it, I’ve got to get him going and give him more opportunities, with the way he was running, and have a better feel for the flow of the game. That was something I didn’t think I did very well.”

    McVay also pointed out, correctly, quite fairly, that the low number of plays took the Rams out of sync, and credited the Eagles defense for doing a good job against the Rams’ first-down plays, particularly some of the play-action stuff that had been successful all season.

    McVay also talked about the need for run-pass balance, and at times, McVay seemed to stray too far.

    The Rams held a 35-34 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter when, on a first-and-10 play, McVay called a play-action pass. Eagles defensive end Chris Long sprinted around Rams tackle Darrell Williams, who had entered the game two plays earlier, and forced a Goff strip-sack fumble.

    Philadelphia went on to kick a go-ahead field goal, and after the game, McVay was forthright in saying that he should have called a better play. Perhaps the Rams should have kept the ball on the ground?

    It’s not as though the Rams have been ignoring Gurley. They’ve run the ball on 44.7 percent of their plays, the ninth-highest average in the NFL. Gurley’s 236 carries rank third in the league, and he is tied for second in total touches (with receptions included). Gurley has totaled 1,637 yards from scrimmage this season, second only to Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (1,684), and Gurley now is a 1,000-yard rusher.

    And, of course, it’s difficult to argue with McVay as a play-caller, given that the Rams have averaged 30.5 points per game this season, second only to the Eagles (31.1).

    Yet something still seems off, perhaps because it’s tough to ignore the 20-touch stat. The Rams are 2-4 when he doesn’t reach that mark, and the two wins were blowouts in which Gurley was rested late.

    In the Rams’ nine victories, Gurley’s touches accounted for 37.5 percent of the Rams’ plays. In the Rams’ four losses, Gurley’s touches accounted for 31.2 percent of their plays. That’s not a dramatic difference, but it also isn’t a coincidence. The Rams are better when Gurley is the focal point of their offense.

    That also seems to be diminishing. In the Rams’ first six games, Gurley runs were 33.4 percent of the Rams’ offense. In their last seven games, Gurley runs have been only 26.0 percent of the offense.

    “Going back to the New Orleans game and the last couple weeks, you can definitely look at that,” McVay said. “I look at myself and say, you’ve got to make sure you’re cognizant of giving the runs a chance and trying to stay balanced. That’s something I haven’t done. You can’t keep standing up here and saying the same things. You’ve just got to get it fixed.

    “That’s something I’ve got to be mindful of, especially when you look at it and, they were the top rushing defense in the league, but our guys were doing a good job of getting some movement and Todd was running really well.”

    Perhaps, McVay is mindful of keeping Gurley fresh for late-season (and perhaps playoff) games, which wouldn’t be a ridiculous thought, but the Rams (9-4) can’t use Gurley in the playoffs if they don’t get there, and this week’s game against Seattle (8-5) might decide which team wins the NFC West.

    In the teams’ first meeting this season, a 16-10 Seahawks victory at the Coliseum on Oct. 8, Gurley’s usage was low. He had only 14 carries (for 43 yards) and two catches, which marked the only time this season that Gurley’s touches accounted for fewer than 25 percent of the Rams’ total plays.

    INJURY REPORT
    McVay said cornerback Trumaine Johnson left Sunday’s game with a nerve “stinger” in his shoulder and was not in the NFL concussion protocol, as had been announced during and after the game.

    McVay also said offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein both are expected to play against Seattle. Both were announced as having ankle injuries during and after the game, but McVay said Monday that they had “mild MCL” issues.

    Receiver Robert Woods (shoulder) and linebacker Connor Barwin (arm) are expected to participate when the Rams return to practice Wednesday, and both are on track to play Sunday, McVay said.


  • #2
    Hey the Rams are going to meet tough teams... the Vikings and Eagles--not everyone is going to be a Colts team. So what the Eagles drop a game and where manhandled in Seattle and wanted to recapture their swagger bring their A game to the Rams....going to face those situations---Rams man up

    Gurley, yes well worth the draft pick at #1. But there are 10 other guys on the field; McVay needs to mix it up and throw a few glitches at opponents' defenses. If Gurley is involved in 1/3 your plays it means, 1/3 of the time the defense know what's coming run or pass... Gurley ran into a smart defense--yes he got his yards and was affective but he failed to break a BEND BUT NOT BREAK DEFENSE. That is on McVay.... Kupp got his yards but again he alone couldn't drive a stake in the Eagles hearts either. But the Rams offense did their job--Defense came up short. ANd if the Rams are going to go anywhere in the playoffs, the Defense has to come up BIG each game

    Comment


    • #3
      I credit McVay for saying the right things and sounding like a man willing to admit mistakes and concede he'd change some things if he had the chance to do them over again. Part of fixing a problem or an approach is an acknowledgement that you don't have all the answers and you're willing to adjust as necessary. That said, the REAL proof will be in McVay's actions through his play calling as we move forward. I think it's easy to forget among this unexpected 9-4 start that McVay is still very much evolving as a head coach- a young guy who is gifted and knows a lot, but is nonetheless inexperienced in this role. To me, he's shown the propensity to throw the ball TOO much at times. While it's a passing league and its important for McVay to demonstrate a well-placed faith in Goff, he must not do so at the expense of Gurley, who is showing us his rookie year wasn't an aberration. He must also help the defense, which despite anything Wade Phillips can throw at teams, still needs rest. This is achieved through ball control at select times throughout a game.

      If you are unable to run because of something a team is throwing at you defensively, I'd understand changing it up and throwing the ball more. But it seems like several times we've spoken about Gurley being effective, only to have his carries diminish, and I don't understand that approach. It's difficult to sit here and take issue with an offense that is head and shoulders above anything we've seen in recent years, yet I still think we need to strive for better balance between the run and the pass.

      Comment


      • #4
        If they are worried about keeping Gurley fresh for the playoffs then maybe a little more Malcom Brown is in order. If I remember correctly, Brown just had one run all day. I have a feeling that McVay will get the balance thing figured out at some point.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by fearsome foursome View Post
          If they are worried about keeping Gurley fresh for the playoffs then maybe a little more Malcom Brown is in order. If I remember correctly, Brown just had one run all day. I have a feeling that McVay will get the balance thing figured out at some point.
          Wasn't Brown nicked up some?

          On another note, I am suspecting that there is some truth to the thought that McVay is "banking" Gurley. I cannot fathom not using him in the situations where we needed him most and my thought is McVay might be planning ahead. You want to keep him fresh, but you don't want to wear him out or worse, injure him. I know that the game changes dramatically at the play off level and this may be insurance. Stay ahead of Seattle and get to the play offs and just unleash him. Gurley's runs are good and he is doing a great job on the check downs as well. The Philly game was really physical as we saw with the loss of Webster and Philly's loss of Wentz...

          I smell something cooking...

          "The disappointment of losing is huge!"

          Jack Youngblood

          Comment


          • #6
            That ability to learn from mistakes does seem to be a characteristic of this team. IIRC, there were no penalties on us during kick and punt returns.

            McVay will figure this stuff out.
            “Oh, 100 percent,” Donald said. “I feel like the words, ‘Thank you,’ ain’t enough. You’ve got to show it... Instead of saying thank you — show it.”

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            • #7
              The one play call that I just can't get my head around, and still bothers me, is the pass attempt where Goff had the ball stripped. The Rams were up 35-34, had just been given a first down on a PI , with the ball on the 35, and 8:26 left on the clock. At that point, I just don't understand not giving the ball to Gurley. Despite a relentless Philly pass rush virtually the entire game, the need to take time off the clock, and a very effective Gurley, McVay dialed up a slow developing, deep route, that obviously ended in disaster, and IMO, was the biggest factor in the loss. There was no need to go for a home run, given the situation.

              I really hope McVay learned some lessons against Philly, and adjusts his usage of Gurley.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
                The one play call that I just can't get my head around, and still bothers me, is the pass attempt where Goff had the ball stripped. The Rams were up 35-34, had just been given a first down on a PI , with the ball on the 35, and 8:26 left on the clock. At that point, I just don't understand not giving the ball to Gurley. Despite a relentless Philly pass rush virtually the entire game, the need to take time off the clock, and a very effective Gurley, McVay dialed up a slow developing, deep route, that obviously ended in disaster, and IMO, was the biggest factor in the loss. There was no need to go for a home run, given the situation.

                I really hope McVay learned some lessons against Philly, and adjusts his usage of Gurley.

                Gurley had some very good runs, along with several receptions generating good yardage. I too wondered why he wasn't used more. Gurley was playing well enough to keep the defense honest. Using him more would have taken time off the clock while continuing to sell play action - let alone any big plays he might have made.

                Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but I agree McVay really blew it on that call.

                Last edited by MauiRam; -12-12-2017, 11:28 AM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I do believe McVay is a little quick to abandon the run. But I also believe it is worse to stick to the run when it is not working, would rather err on the pass side in today's NFL. Some games I see runs called when it isn't working just to "Keep em honest" -ultimately these are just wasted downs. Not saying this was the case vs. The Eagles.

                  However, I also feel that McVay has not been great in the red zone as of late. It's almost like our offense gets away with so much given that our team is scoring 30 per game yet it seems like we make it harder than it has to be, especially in the red zone.

                  If you recall we were the #1 team in the red zone for the first 4 or 5 games of the season, then we went on a slump with barely any TD's.

                  all I'm saying is that it could be even better. Fisher had the problem of getting to the 20 and then his only goal was to get to the 10 and get a first down. You have to take advantage of that 20 yard space to open the field while you still can and take some shots into the end zone or down to the 3 yard line, and not try to creep your way in. I've been noticing a bit of this ghost of Fisher creeping in on McVay at times.

                  But hopefully all's well that ends well! Huge game this Sunday. - Go Rams!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Had no issue with the play calling per se' as I read earlier in the year that Coach planned to keep him fresh, and he is such a dynamic play maker. That being said, in the offseason we have to get a compliment back to Gurley so that our play calling is a little less predictable when he is not in the game.

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                    • kman1521
                      Mcvay play calling absolutely horrendous
                      by kman1521
                      Not only does he forget about running Gurley, he calls all these 7 step drop plays that take forever to develop whike bears are getting tons of pressure. Wheres the quick slants? Quick any pass!?!.. just awful playcalling..goff was awful too
                      -12-09-2018, 09:11 PM
                    • Nick
                      McVay: Todd Gurley will be 'focal point of our offense'
                      by Nick
                      McVay: Todd Gurley will be 'focal point of our offense'
                      By Kevin Patra
                      Around the NFL Writer
                      Published: April 12, 2019 at 02:28 p.m.

                      Questions about Todd Gurley's knee issue that stretched into the playoffs have lingered all offseason, leaving us to ponder how the Los Angeles Rams would utilize the running back moving forward.

                      Despite whispers that the Rams might try to curtail Gurley's workload, coach Sean McVay said Friday on The Rich Eisen Show that the All-Pro running back will continue to be the center of the offense.

                      "You can expect Todd to be a focal point of our offense going forward," McVay told Eisen. "He's in a good place, he's feeling good and will continue to be a central piece of our offense and I don't see that changing."

                      McVay's response appears to answer the query Les Snead posited during the NFL Scouting Combine in February when the GM suggested Gurley's workload might need to be monitored moving forward.

                      It's no surprise McVay would insist Gurley remain the centerpiece of the offense. As a dynamic runner, threat out of the backfield as a pass-catcher and goal line hammer, Gurley is a preeminent running back threat when healthy.

                      Still, managing his workload more delicately in 2019 seems like a prudent move. Through his first four seasons, Gurley has handled 1,042 carries in the regular season alone. Compare that to two other prominent running backs from his draft class: Melvin Gordon (897) and David Johnson (687). Gurley's 1,229 touches over 58 career regular-season games give him an average of 21.2 touches per tilt.

                      McVay wouldn't have to relegate Gurley to a complementary weapon in the offense to monitor his workload. Given the knee issue appears like it's one that could pop up at any moment, shaving a few reps and allowing the running back a few more respites each game could work just as well.

                      After the Rams handed Gurley the largest contract in the NFL for a running back, there was never a real question about whether he would remain the focal point of an offense that makes headlines for its passing attack, but at its core is a run-focused, play-action assault.

                      The biggest question is how Gurley's leg will hold up over the course of 16 games. It's one we might not have a hard answer to until January.
                      -04-12-2019, 06:01 PM
                    • Curly Horns
                      Sean McVay made right call riding hot hand in C.J. Anderson over Todd Gurley
                      by Curly Horns
                      By: Andrew Ortenberg | 12 hours ago Follow @AndrewOball


                      Sean McVay rightfully gets a ton of praise for his innovative offense and play design, as well as his gutsy situational calls like going for it on certain fourth downs. But the best decision he made Saturday night to help lead the Rams to their first playoff win in 14 years was keeping running back C.J. Anderson in the game ahead of Todd Gurley.

                      Even though Gurley was healthy and running well in his own right, Anderson deserved all of the touches and playing time that he got. It’s not like many other positions, where being forced to split time could affect a player’s mentality. And running back is the one position where the hot hand should always be played.

                      Anderson finished with 123 yards and two touchdowns, and ended up with 23 carries to Gurley’s 16. While the thought of giving a free agent who just signed weeks ago nearly even playing time with a multiple-time All-Pro who was recently given the largest contract for a running back in NFL history might seem absurd, it’s the latest in a long line of bold decisions McVay has made that turned out right.

                      Anderson is competent in pass protection and picked up chunk yardage the entire night. His longest run went for 15 yards, which tells you all you need to know about how consistent he was to still average over 5 yards a carry. McVay also left him in during some of the most crucial situations, showing the confidence he has in the 27-year-old back after just a few weeks.

                      It was Anderson who got the carry on fourth-and-goal with seven minutes left in the game, and he ran through contact at the line of scrimmage for the score that proved to be the difference in the game. It was also Anderson taking the final three handoffs of the game, and picking up the first down with just over a minute left that sealed the victory.

                      If someone had told you a month ago that Anderson would be carrying the ball 23 times in a playoff game, you’d have thought something must have gone disastrously wrong. You’d probably have thought Gurley suffered a season-ending injury.

                      Instead, everything has gone perfectly for the Rams backfield, and McVay handled the situation just as he should’ve. If Anderson continues his fantastic play next week in the NFC championship game, he should receive plenty of run in that one as well.
                      -01-13-2019, 09:53 AM
                    • fearsome foursome
                      Which would you choose?
                      by fearsome foursome
                      Considering the Rams second team lost last year to the whiners when the coaches decided to rest the starters, which would you prefer? The Rams play their starters and win but lose a valuable player for the playoffs such as Goff, Whitworth, Gurley or Donald or... the Rams lose the whiner game but come out healthy. I imagine this is something that the Rams coaches are thinking about....
                      -12-26-2018, 10:14 AM
                    • r8rh8rmike
                      Gurley Day-to-Day With Inflamation in Knee
                      by r8rh8rmike
                      Rams RB Todd Gurley day-to-day with inflammation in knee

                      9:24 PM PT
                      Lindsey Thiry ESPN

                      THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley is considered day-to-day because of inflammation in his left knee, coach Sean McVay said Monday.

                      Gurley was sidelined for a series in the third quarter of Sunday night's 30-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

                      After the game, Gurley said, "I returned, so I was fine." He rushed for 48 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and caught 10 passes for 76 yards.

                      The Rams (11-3) have clinched the NFC West, but have two regular-season games remaining against the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.

                      Despite a secured playoff berth, McVay said the final two games remained important and that he would prefer that Gurley play, if he was available.

                      "If he's able to go, we want him to be able to go," McVay said. "But if it's something that whether you're playing for the playoffs or whether you're not, we're always going to be smart with a player like Todd."

                      Gurley ranks second in the NFL with 89.4 rushing yards per game and has scored a league-high 21 touchdowns.

                      Backup running back Justin Davis, who replaced Malcolm Brown after he was placed on injured reserve, also is day-to-day because of a shoulder injury....
                      -12-18-2018, 10:37 AM
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