The Texans are playing the St. Louis Los Angeles Rams this Saturday afternoon. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the most important preseason game of the year, I asked Joe of Turf Show Times three questions. This was the result.
1). Todd Gurley had 19 (19!) touchdowns last season. The most he had previously was 10 during his rookie year. The biggest change was the passing game. Gurley caught 64 passes on 87 targets for 12.3 yards a reception after being targeted only 58 times in 2016. Is this pass-catching Gurley going to be the Gurley we see from here on out? From a fantasy perspective, are you worried Gurley sees a drop in production after having an insane 2017 (19! touchdowns)?
No lie, I am worried, though not because of Gurley himself.
His skill set has been apparent since his freshman year at Georgia in 2012. I’m more concerned because of, well, the general need for running backs to have things around them work (see: Gurley’s 2016 season) and the general balance of the Rams’ offense.
Gurley added 87 passing targets to his 279 rushes last year. The Rams have since added WR Brandin Cooks to replace WR Sammy Watkins. In 2017 with the New England Patriots, Cooks had 114 targets; Watkins had just 70 with the Rams last year. When you consider that the Rams have to keep Gurley, Cooks and WR Robert Woods, WR Cooper Kupp and the tight ends involved, it’s hard to predict the work rate across the offense. Throw in the running back depth behind Gurley that was lessened last year with the injury to RB Lance Dunbar and perhaps increased this year with rookie sixth-round pick RB John Kelly, and I could totally see a statistical regression from Gurley that has less to do with Gurley and more to do with everything around him.
2.) The Rams added Marcus Peters, Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib, and Sam Shields to the roster over the offseason. Last season they finished in DVOA like the usual Wade Phillips defense does—excellent against the pass and fine against the run. The Rams ended the 2017 season sixth overall with a defensive DVOA of -9.8%. With the new additions, how much better can the defense be? Do you think the Rams dethrone the Jaguars and end up with the best pass defense in football?
Perhaps. I do think the balance between the run and pass matters most. Much like Gurley’s skill as a runner balanced against the efficiency he could maximize in lesser outputs, the pass defense could be made better by overloading on run defense, especially from the safety position. That being said, I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t acknowledge the lack of skill at the edge rushing position.
Last year, the Rams stacked Robert Quinn with Connor Barwin, and it just didn’t work. As good as Quinn was early on in his career, he wasn’t dominant last year, and Barwin struggled to complement him in any meaningful way. So without a consistent pass rush in standard sets, the Rams were forced to use the blitz or rely on coverage to pressure the QB consistently. Now having moved on from both Quinn and Barwin, it remains to be seen if the Rams can even match the mediocre edge pass rush of 2017. If not, that DVOA might even fall let alone challenge the tops of the NFL.
3.) Sometimes in sports, we see this: A whale is dropped from a helicopter into a public pool during the offseason. A team spends a ton of money. It adds an insane amount of talent. Then, the following season, that team struggles to play well and their performance fails to meet their talent level. Do you have any concerns about the Rams failing to meet expectations after the excitement of last season and the new additions generated?
I have to admit I have never seen a whale dropped from a helicopter into a public pool. I would like to see this. Is this something that is done frequently where you live? I have many more questions. Please contact me immediately.
Beyond those questions (Can a helicopter even bear the loading weight of a whale? Why is the whale being dropped into a pool? Is there no other body of water to place said whale in that would be better suited to a beast of such ridiculous size? Why in the hell are we moving the whale in the first place? Whose pool is this whale being dropped into? Are random suburban families aware that a whale is being placed in the pool on Friday? Have we budgeted for the whale’s nutritional needs? How is the whale’s finwork? Can the whale play outside linebacker? Is the whale more of an athlete or more of a technician? Does the whale have the work ethic to succeed at this level? Has anyone considered that perhaps the whale peaked in college? Is the whale better suited to previous eras of football than the current one? Did the whale know of the payout before it happened? Did the whale follow NCAA procedures? Can whale presidents be indicted? Is the whale me? Dad?)...sorry, I forgot the question. I thought a lot about whales and Melville.
Ah, yes. Money.
I have sincere concerns about the Rams meeting fans’ expectations, but only because those expectations are so high. Fans are talking about deep playoff runs for a team that just made its first postseason in 14 years. So anything less than a multi-game postseason appearance would disappoint. And that’s a high, high bar to set.
So yes, huge concerns about the bar being set so high.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS WHALE.
Make sure to head on over to Turf Show Times to read more about the Rams before they host the Texans on Saturday afternoon.