St. Louis Rams

Rams rookie Todd Gurley continues early assault on NFL defenses

St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley carries the ball against the Green Bay Packers.
St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley carries the ball against the Green Bay Packers. AP

Todd Gurley hasn’t just introduced himself to the NFL, he’s putting on a show.

With two full starts and three games under his belt, the St. Louis Rams rookie running back has shredded Arizona for 146 yards on 19 carries, then tacked on 159 yards the following week on 30 carries against the Green Bay Packers.

“It definitely surprised me,” Gurley said Wednesday. “I’m definitely confident in myself and know what I’m capable of. Just those guys up front, they’ve done a great job with putting in the extra work and every day at practice. We knew what we were capable of.”

In recent years these haven’t been the Rams of Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk or Jerome Bettis, all Hall of Famers.

St. Louis Rams fans have witnessed starting running backs like Zac Stacy, June Henley, Lawrence Phillips and Darryl Richardson. Nothing against any of those backs, but none have the all-around ability to dominate a game — at least potentially — the way Gurley has shown in limited action coming off ACL surgery.

Are the Rams surprised by what Gurley has done?

“No, it’s kind of where our expectations were,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “The good thing about Todd is Todd’s not 100 percent. Just wait until he’s 100 percent.”

That’s a scary thought.

It’s kind of where our expectations were. The good thing about Todd is Todd’s not 100 percent. Just wait until he’s 100 percent.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher on rookie running back Todd Gurley

Here’s a rookie from the University of Georgia who has touched the ball 58 times in the NFL, including 55 carries, and he already has 314 yards rushing, He’s averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

According to the NFL, Gurley is trying to join Dickerson and become only the second rookie in league history with three straight games of 140 yards or more rushing.

“I’m not going to go there, but he’s not 100 percent,” Fisher said when prodded further about Gurley’s condition.

“I’m fine,” Gurley insists. “I feel like I’m not the only one that’s not 100 percent, I’m pretty sure 100 percent of the guys in the NFL are not 100 percent. I’ve been doing fine so far, just got to stay on top of things; treatment, doing my extra work and stuff like that.”

Gurley went back to Georgia during the Rams’ bye week and witnessed the Bulldogs’ 9-6 Southeastern Conference win over Missouri.

“Oh yeah, I had a good time,” he said. “Definitely felt good being back.”

Gurley didn’t even think about what he might have done had he stuck around in college. In only 30 games at Georgia over three seasons, he racked up 3,285 yards and 36 touchdowns.

I think I looked up at the scoreboard midway through the fourth quarter and it was 25 (carries) and I was like ‘dang,’ it didn’t really feel like it. Once I said that I started getting a little tired. I’ll try not to jinx myself next time.

Todd Gurley

“My days are done,” he said with a nod toward his college career. “I play on Sundays now.”

Gurley isn’t content to just do well in the NFL. He spends time after practice working with a JUGS machine that sends football his way so he can work on his pass catching mechanics.

“That’s why I’m out there every day,” he said.

He likes to finish off some of his runs in practice by sprinting to the end zone, although that’s one of the few places he hasn’t yet visited with the Rams.

“As long as we win I’ll be happy,” Gurley said. “That stuff will be cool but when it happens, it happens.”

314The number of rushing yards in only two NFL starts by Rams rookie Todd Gurley

The Rams return home Sunday and will be facing a Cleveland Browns defense than ranks 32nd (last in the NFL) against the run, allowing an average of 149.8 yards per game.

Shouldn’t the combination of a hot Gurley and a porous run defense have the Rams’ rookie fast-forwarding the calendar to Sunday as quickly as possible?

“Those things sound good,” he said, “but at the end of the day once Sunday hits and we come out on the field it’s all about executing and not letting that man across from you beat you. Those guys can come Sunday and play like they’re the No. 1 defense.

“Those guys had a great game last week against the Broncos. I never really look at the ranks.”

The Rams accelerated Gurley’s transition after a long rehab period, going from six carries 9for nine yards) against Pittsburgh to 19 carries against Arizona. The following week against Green Bay, it was Gurley in workhorse mode with 30 carries.

“The majority of the time in my past history, once I get the ball more in the fourth quarter I usually get better,” said Gurley, who already has two carries of more than 50 yards and five of 20 yards or better. “I’ve just got to keep having good practice habits and finishing my runs.”

That being said, Gurley didn’t even realize he had so many carries against the Packers.

“I think I looked up at the scoreboard midway through the fourth quarter and it was 25 (carries) and I was like ‘dang,’ it didn’t really feel like it,” he said. “Once I said that I started getting a little tired. I’ll try not to jinx myself next time.”

Gurley is doing this behind an offensive line starting two rookies and a first-year starter at center. The line is now missing its most experienced starter in injured guard Rodger Saffold.

“When you run the ball how we’ve run the ball, you become confident in what you do,” Rams rookie guard Jamar Brown said. “Obviously there’s still things we can do better and we constantly try to work on those things day-in, day-out. But we’re pretty confident with the things we’ve done to this point.”

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

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