Since erupting for more than 125 rushing yards in each of his first four NFL starts, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley has reached the century mark just once in 17 games. The 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year broke free for more runs of 20-plus yards in his starting debut versus the Cardinals last October than he's managed this entire season in nine games.
While NFL Game Pass has shown Gurley misreading open holes at the line of scrimmage this season, it can be argued that he has been forced into bad habits by an overpowered offensive line and an anemic aerial "attack."
Gurley's rare talent isn't up for debate. Your mother could scout Todd Gurley. On the rare occasions when the former Georgia star finds a crease, he still exhibits explosiveness that few other backs can match.
Since the Rams' dysfunctional Week 1 performance, though, defenses have been content to stack the box and take their chances against Case Keenum's popgun arm. Absent a passable threat at quarterback, Gurley has run into a brick wall on first and second downs. Backed into third-and-long situations against defenses bringing pressure, Keenum has had little chance to sustain drives.
As a result, an offense stuck in a vicious circle ranks dead-last in points per game, 31st in yards per game, 30th in yards per carry and 29th in rushing yards per game.
A week ago, NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported the Rams were reluctant to replace Keenum with Jared Goff because the offense wasn't functioning at a high enough level to support the neophyte quarterback.
Now that Goff is set to make his NFL debut versus the Dolphins on Sunday, the coaching staff's hope is that the No. 1 overall draft pick's superior arm talent will help open the offense.
Over the past three weeks, Brock Osweiler (4.3) is the lone NFL passer averaging fewer yards per attempt than Keenum (5.8).
Although Goff has been slow to decipher the middle of the field and is still adjusting to blitz pickups, per NFL Network's Michael Silver, the Rams believe his passes have the zip to make defenses pay outside the numbers and down the field. If that's the case, Goff's arm can soften boxes for Gurley, leading to a more balanced offense.
"I think what they want to see more than anything out of Jared Goff," Wyche explained Tuesday on NFL Network, "is for this offense to get into tempo ... stretch the ball downfield and see what they have there."
For the past few months, the Rams have watched Dallas' Dak Prescott and Philadelphia's Carson Wentz -- two rookies drafted after Goff -- surpass expectations in balanced offensive attacks.
It's time for the organization to take the purported franchise savior for a test drive. Even if Goff can't match the immediate success of Prescott and Wentz, the Rams are counting on him to show flashes, avoid turnovers and make Gurley's life easier.
Last year at this time, Gurley was drawinglofty comparisons to Hall of Famers such as Gale Sayers and Eric Dickerson. It will be interesting to see if the quarterback change can spark a chain reaction that ultimately unlocks Gurley's vast potential.