When the Rams used the No. 10 pick in the 2015 draft on running back Todd Gurley, I thought it was a bad idea because he was coming off a serious knee injury. Gurley’s rookie season changed my mind dramatically. I enjoyed watching him outrun defensive backs, plow over linebackers, and hurdle defenders for extra yards.
He became the Rams' go-to offensive weapon in 2015, rushing for 1,106 yards, 4.8 yards per carry and 10 scores. He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and took home the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. On top of that, the Rams finished with a top-10 rushing offense, something they hadn’t done since 2006 with Steven Jackson.
Gurley suffered a sophomore slump in 2016, racking up just 885 yards and six touchdowns while averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Nothing went right for Gurley when he had the ball in his hands. His offensive line couldn't open holes for him, the quarterback play was horrible, and the receivers couldn't make plays.
With a new head coach, the offensive-minded Sean McVay, I look forward to seeing Gurley return to form in 2017, making defenses look silly again.
Powerful like a locomotive
Gurley is 6’1, 226 pounds. Arm tackles do not work against him because he’ll just run through them with his powerful legs. He reminds me of Jackson. Like Jackson, Gurley looks for contact and runs angry.
Look at how he shredded the Cleveland Browns in 2015. He broke tackles, plowed over and dragged their helpless defenders, and kept his legs churning for extra yards.
Gurley hit holes with so much force, you’re left in awe watching him. The thrill of seeing No. 30 gallop through defenses leaves you on the edge of your seats.
His powerful running is the reason to watch the Rams this season, maybe the only reason. I like to see my team win like the next fan, but I also love when players play with heart, grit, and passion. What makes Gurley fun to watch is that he displays all those traits.
Quicker than a hiccup
It’s hard to miss Gurley on the gridiron. He has the size of a linebacker, but he is faster than some receivers. When Gurley was a rookie, you could tell teams underestimated his speed due to his size. The Arizona Cardinals were one of those teams. Unfortunately for them, Gurley made them pay with this 52-yard scamper.
As you can see, Gurley barely got touched, which is rare for a man his size.
Speed is one of the most overlooked elements of Gurley’s game. No, he’s not as fast as Chris Johnson in his prime or LeSean McCoy, but he has the wheels to break off long plays. If Gurley sees a hint of daylight up front, he’ll burst through the hole quickly and get to the second level. It’s a rare blend of power and speed.
Gurley has some bounce
Along with Gurley’s punishing running style, he can go airborne on defenders, too. I like when he hurdles over players because it shows that he’ll stop at nothing to pick up a few extra yards.
In his rookie year against the Seattle Seahawks, Gurley wanted to pick up more yards to give the Rams a better chance of scoring another touchdown on Seattle. Even though he coughed up the ball and the Rams recovered it, it was still an amazing play because I didn't expect for him to pull that off.
Why Gurley, Kaleel?
I’m not expecting the Rams to make much noise this year. I know they probably won't win more than five games this season. The Rams haven't had a winning season since 2003, when I still had to ask my parents to stay up late on a school night.
All jokes aside, though, other than defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Gurley is my favorite player in the NFL because he’s passionate and doesn't give up on runs. I’m confident Gurley will have a bounce-back season, and you, NFL fan, should be excited too.
For one, Gurley has new coaches who will be whispering in his ear. McVay brought in Matt LaFleur to be the Rams’ new offensive coordinator. LaFleur was the Atlanta Falcons’ quarterbacks coach from 2015-2016. Last season, the Falcons finished with the second-ranked offense and fifth in rushing.
No, this doesn't mean that I will only focus on Gurley and not the win-loss column. Los Angeles desperately needs to make a playoff run in the near future to keep fans happy. But until then, I’ll watch Gurley because he’s shown in the past that he can change a game with one run. Most of the time, that’s all you need.