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Week 3 Disaster Recovery: Todd Gurley


Welcome to Disaster Recovery, where each week I'll examine why your studs played like duds. This isn't a place to find out why you should have sat a player for somebody on your bench. Disaster Recovery is to examine the guys who you didn't think twice about starting, and deciding if you should be panicking at all about their value moving forward.

This season we'll be focusing on one dud a week, and touching on a few others briefly. There will be two major qualifiers for these players: the player must have performed well below expectations without an injury, and the player must be considered a must-start in most formats.

I've been in denial since February that I'd ever be covering this player in this column, but the time has unfortunately come. We need to talk about Todd Gurley.

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Barring an Act of Todd...

Todd Gurley's Week 3 stat-line: 14 rushes for 43 yards.

This is a complicated situation. Let's start by talking about what we should not be panicking about.

Todd Gurley is not injured: I went in-depth on this a few months back, but it doesn't appear that Gurley has suffered any setbacks since he missed time late last season. It doesn't seem likely that he will. The Rams have had months to prepare a plan to keep Gurley as spry as he can be. There's a plan in place and it's being executed. Speaking of which...

Malcolm Brown is not a concern: Anyone who drafted Todd Gurley had to account for a decrease in touches from last season. Gurley is still playing on 69% of the Rams snaps, compared to 31% for Brown. You'd be insane to expect Gurley to receive 90% snap shares like he was last season, as he has arthritis in his knee. The Rams have to take care of him where they can, and cutting his snap-count down a bit is a part of that.

One thing that should be noted is how the Rams are splitting up the snaps between Brown and Gurley. Rather than spell Gurley mid-drive for Brown, the running back who starts out the drive plays the entire drive. Last week, Gurley played on seven drives and Brown played on three. That resulted in a 74% snap share for Gurley and 26% for Brown. The week before the duo split the same amount of drives, but Brown was on the field for 37% of the snaps while Gurley dropped to 63%. It seems reasonable to expect somewhere between 60-70% of snaps for Gurley each week, which should theoretically be enough work for Gurley to put up solid numbers.

With that out of the way, let's look at what's actually concerning for Gurley owners.

The Rams aren't passing the ball to running backs: This is the most bizarre roadblock Gurley owners have had to deal with. It was expected that either Malcolm Brown or Darrell Henderson would take some snaps from Gurley and ultimately some of his general workload. It was not expected that Goff would just completely ignore the team's running backs in the passing game.

In the first three games of 2018, Gurley hauled in 11 of 14 targets for 121 yards and a touchdown. Keep in mind that this was before Cooper Kupp was injured. This season, Gurley and Brown have caught five of eight targets for 18 yards and a touchdown combined. Gurley's dual-threat ability was part of what made him such a dominant fantasy force last season. Gurley had one game of four or less receiving yards during his first two years under Sean McVay. He's had four or less receiving yards in every game this season. Take away his receiving ability and he doesn't really have a path to being an RB1 this year. Gurley owners have to be praying that this aspect of his game returns.

The Rams offense is worse: Last season, the Rams finished second in total yards, fifth in passing yards, and third in rushing yards. Currently, they're at 16th in total yards, 22nd in passing yards, and seventh in rushing yards. The rushing yards are fine. Gurley's total rushing yards will dip due to his timeshare with Brown, but he's still shown he can get his even with Brown seeing a few drives here and there. It's the other stuff that's a concern.

The offensive line is worse. Rich King recently explained this in his Offensive Line series. The Rams replaced veterans with first-year starts at left guard and center. Their starting offensive guard is currently injured and his replacement is also a first-year starter, only he's been cut by two different teams in his two-year career. The unit struggled against Cleveland last week. It's certainly possible that the first-year starters develop and become solid players by year's end. But it isn't a guarantee.

Jared Goff has been decent at best this season. His completion percentage is down, his TD% has dipped by two points, and he's throwing nearly 50 yards less per game compared to last season. Remember that this is all with Cooper Kupp, Goff's favorite target, back in the lineup. When Goff struggles, the offense struggles. They're finding themselves in the red zone less than last year. Since Gurley is already losing a few red-zone touches to Brown, he needs the team to be in the red zone as much as possible. He scored 20 of his 21 touchdowns in the red zone last season. It's his bread and butter.

Goff needs to get back into form for this offense to find itself once again. But he's not the only player who has looked worse this season.

Todd Gurley is worse: You can dig deep into the snap counts, the offensive line, the red zone touches, and whatever else you want to dissect to try and figure out why Gurley's numbers are lower this season. The hard truth is that Todd Gurley hasn't looked like Todd Gurley.

Gurley lit the Panthers up for 64 yards on eight carries during the fourth quarter of the team's opening game. It's truly the only quarter where he's looked like his old self. He found the end zone in Week 2 to cover up a mediocre outing on the ground. He was exposed in Week 3.

The offensive struggles certainly factor into Gurley's poor play. If Goff and the line can get going, there's a strong chance that Gurley gets going as well.

There's also a chance that he's lost a step. Gurley has averaged less than four yards a carry in four of his last five games dating back to last postseason. I'm still a believer in the fifth-year running back, but even I can't deny the possibility is there. Next week's game against Tampa Bay will be telling. Gurley could desperately use a big game.

Panic Meter: 4/5

I won't be covering any other players this week, but I'll be keeping a close eye on Stefon Diggs and James Conner, two players who are approaching level five on the panic meter. Read more about our take on James Conner here. We'll touch base on them next week if they continue to struggle.

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