Will St. Louis Rams commitment to Todd Gurley, running game pay off?


The St. Louis Rams boast a talented roster, but finished the season with a 6-10 record a year ago in a tough NFC West. Obviously the team would like to finish with a better record in 2015 and head coach Jeff Fisher did exactly what he had to do this offseason to accomplish that.

Fisher is a hard-nosed, old school type of leader and the moves he made (trading for quarterback Nick Foles and putting together solid draft) should have Rams’ fans feeling optimistic about the upcoming season.

In 2014, St. Louis’ running game didn’t live up to its potential. In fact, it hasn’t been ranked in the top-15 in the NFL in well over 10 years. That fact shouldn’t sit well with this fanbase.

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Last year, the Rams were the NFL’s 20th ranked rushing offense and Fisher has simply had enough. He saw the 2015 NFL Draft as an opportunity to bolster this team’s running game and he took full advantage. Now the question has to be asked, ‘will this commitment to the running game pay off?’ I think you already know my answer.

St. Louis drafted stud running back Todd Gurley 10th overall out of Georgia with hopes of him immediately being the starter. The Rams’ second-year runner, Tre Mason, put together an impressive rookie season last year (765 rushing yards and five total touchdowns), but Gurley is a much more talented back overall.

Gurley, even though he’s never taken an NFL snap, already will bring a sense of urgency and legitimacy to this offense. Opposing defenses will definitely keep an eye on him, which will help this team’s passing attack, too. The Rams’ newly acquired quarterback, Foles, will get more single coverage when throwing the ball with Gurley is on the field, as safeties will be forced to respect his talent.

At Georgia, Gurley ran for 3,285 yards in, essentially, two and a half seasons. He also scored 42 total touchdowns in just 20 career starts. He proved that he is dangerous from anywhere on the field as he scored six receiving touchdowns and returned two kicks for touchdowns for the Bulldogs in his collegiate career. His skill set is just about a lock to translate to the professional game; he has ideal size at 6’1″ and 236 pounds while possessing elite speed through the hole.

However, this team didn’t just bolster the running back position in the 2015 NFL Draft, it brought in four linemen as well.

Nov 29, 2014; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Rob Havenstein (78) carries the Paul Bunyan Axe following during the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams selected offensive tackle Rob Havenstein from Wisconsin, who is sure to be the next in a long line of successful former Badgers’ linemen in the NFL.

Havenstein is freakishly large at 6’8″ and 330 pounds and he has great instincts. He’s not overly athletic, but he doesn’t have to be; he’s there to do his job and he does it well.

St. Louis also selected guard Jamon Brown out of Louisville. He is a bit smaller than Havenstein, but much more diverse of a player.

Brown has experience at guard and tackle and is exceptionally quick for a 332 pound man. These two players will help clear the way for Gurley next season and their impact should be felt from day one.

But the Rams weren’t done yet. They went for depth at the offensive line; which is an incredibly smart move.

Tackle Andrew Donnal from Iowa was drafted in the fourth round and guard Cody Wichmann out of Fresno State was selected in the sixth. Anytime I see a lineman drafted out of the Big Ten I immediately think they’ll have a solid NFL career.

Donnal is regarded as an incredibly hard worker that uses technique to overcome some lack of athleticism. Wichmann was probably the strongest linemen left in the 2015 draft class when the Rams took him with a compensatory pick in the sixth round. He certainly isn’t a bad option to have coming off the bench in a pinch.

This offseason the Rams went from a talented team that lacked an elite rushing attack and depth on the offensive line. Now, they have both of those things. Of course, this is predicting that Gurley lives up to the hype — which I’m betting on. That said, I’ve been wrong before.

I fully expect the Rams to not only have a stronger running attack than they had in 2014 (ranked 20th a year ago), but to be near the top-10 in rushing as a team by the year’s end. If that happens, the Rams will have their best overall rushing season in nearly 15 years.

So yeah, I do believe that the Fisher and the Rams’ commitment to the running game will result in immediate pay off for the 2015 season.

St. Louis not only drafted a potentially franchise-changing player in Gurley, it has already began to surround him with a strong offensive line. If I were a Rams fan I’d be excited for what’s the come with this offense. Remember, Tre Mason will still be getting a lot of carries and he will benefit from this new offensive line, too. He’s only in his second year and still has a high ceiling.

Look out NFL, the Rams’ one-two punch at running back, behind this revamped offensive line, could be one of the league’s most lethal in a year or two.

Next: St. Louis Rams: Contenders in the NFC West?

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