For the first two weeks of the season, the Todd Gurley show has been more of a Todd Gurley preview. The Los Angeles Rams back, who led the NFL in touchdowns in 2018, has a score and 160 rushing yards to his name in 2019. Not awful numbers, but certainly not Offensive Player of the Year caliber.
Gurley’s numbers should get a boost in Week 3, when his Los Angeles Rams face the Browns in Cleveland.
The Browns defense presents a favorable matchup for Gurley and the Rams rushing attack. A 4-3 defense that lives in the backfield but doesn’t cover backs well, Cleveland has had trouble defending backs through two weeks of the 2019 season.
Over two weeks, Cleveland has allowed a total of 184 rushing yards and a touchdown on 46 attempts by running backs. For the Browns, those aren’t worrisome numbers. What is, however, is how they’ve defended backs as pass-catchers. In that same span, Cleveland has seen backs tread out 156 yards and a score on 17 catches.
That bodes well for the Gurley. Why? Los Angeles coach Sean McVay loves to use his backs as a pass-catcher, especially Gurley, who excels with the ball in his hands and has built a rapport with quarterback Jared Goff as a receiver. Gurley hadn’t received less than 80 targets in his first two seasons with McVay as the play-caller.
Not only do the Browns present a good matchup for Gurley on the basis of how they’ve defended backs thus far, but the Cleveland defense is also dealing with their fair share of injuries.
Cleveland will be without linebacker Christian Kirksey for the game. Though not a big name, that’s a significant loss for the Browns defense. He’s a swarming linebacker that consistently makes stops against the run. Browns starting free safety Damarius Randall is out. Strong safety Morgan Burnett may follow, who is a bigger loss in stopping backs as he’s a skilled run-stuffer. Advantage: Gurley.
With the Browns defense filled with injuries and not showing an ability to stop dynamic backs such as Gurley, the Rams back may have his first big-time game of 2019 on Sunday night. However, none of the defensive matchups or injuries matter if Los Angeles decides to limit his snap count, which they very well may do considering the state of Cleveland’s defense.