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Practice Report 10/7: Getting Gurley on Track; A McDonald Family Affair

Posted Oct 7, 2016

L.A. has been working to improve its running game with RB Todd Gurley this week. Plus, S T.J. McDonald's feeling about being on the opposite sideline of his father on Sunday.

It’s safe to say no one expected the 2015 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year to have only 216 yards rushing through four games. And it’s probably safer to assume if someone told you that would be Todd Gurley’s total in the season’s first quarter, you wouldn’t think Los Angeles was carrying a 3-1 record into Week 5.

But that’s the case from both standpoints. And everyone would like the second-year running back’s production to increase, which is why it’s a team issue that the club is working to solve.

“It’s life. Sometimes you kind of wonder what’s going on,” Gurley said after Friday’s practice. “But you’ve got to look at the bigger picture. At the end of the day, we’re still winning. We’re 3-1, and the running game hasn’t been going good. So you always know there’s room for improvement, so you just kind of have got to stay positive about everything.”

“It’s an ongoing process. We’re taking a look at everything,” offensive coordinator Rob Boras said this week. “Schematically, play calls, our technique at the point of attack, our decisions — we’re taking a look at everything right now. Obviously, we’re determined to get it right and get better.”

Head coach Jeff Fisher described last week’s line of scrimmage as being “full of Cardinals” in the Rams’ 17-13 victory, which is one reason Gurley had a tough time getting going on the ground. That’s a reality of what teams are going to do in order to limit Los Angeles’ effectiveness as an offense.

But there are some advantages to that, as it can open up plays for tight end Lance Kendricks and wide receivers like Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, and Tavon Austin.

“I think we’re seeing happen right now in our run-actions and obviously guys are loaded up and stacking the box to stop the run and we’ve been able to try to take advantage of that in other areas,” Boras said. “Part of being balanced is being able to take advantage of what the defense is giving you. And that’s part of being a balanced offense. Right now, in the run-action game, we’re able to make those plays and then, hopefully, that will loosen up and the runs will start coming as well.”

And it’s gratifying for Gurley to see his teammates cash in on those opportunities.

“Quick, KB, Tavon, Lance — all of those guys have been doing good,” Gurley said. “So I know just having all those guys down in the box, that’s just going to give those receivers a good chance to win those one-on-ones. And that’s what we talk about every week, win your one-on-ones. That’s all football is, beating the man across from you. As long as we do that and keep executing, we’ll be just fine.”

Both Fisher and Boras noted Gurley made two outstanding plays in the passing game against Arizona last week. When reporters brought up the receiving skills in the running back’s Friday media session, he just laughed.

“Man, I only caught like three balls and I guess I’m the best receiver now,” Gurley said.

Joking aside, Gurley’s prowess as a receiver can be a boost to the Rams’ offense.

“Since he’s been here, we’ve always said that Todd has unbelievable ball skills,” Boras said. “He’s like any young player, he’s getting better because it’s not something he was asked to do a whole lot at Georgia, but he has natural athletic ability and natural skills. Any time we can get him in space, he can make things happen, so it’s obviously something we want to continue to build on.”

“Just going out there, being consistent, just putting the same thing on film every week. Just showing that you can be a threat somewhere else,” Gurley said. “I think that can definitely help us out a lot.”

But when it comes down to it, the Rams will continue to do their best to ensure Gurley gets back to being the ground threat they know he can be. And that involves much more than just the second-year RB.

“The big thing for us, it’s all tied together — it’s defense getting off the field on third down and getting another possession or offense converting a third down or moving the ball,” Fisher said. “Then of course, as of late — actually since the season’s started — we got everybody jammed in there and they don’t want to let him get going. So, we have to make our plays down the field. But it has nothing to do with Todd, whatsoever. It’s just a matter of getting him some opportunities.”

A FAMILY AFFAIR

In every NFL matchup, there are connections abound between the personnel of the two teams. Players might have attended the same college, coaches might have worked together at different stops — there’s any number of possibilities.

But there will be one that’s a bit unique on opposite sidelines of the Coliseum this Sunday, as Rams safety T.J. McDonald will be lining up against his father.

Well, one could say that’s technically not the case. McDonald’s father, Tim McDonald, will be with the visitors as Buffalo’s defensive backs coach. As you might expect, that’s going to bring out the competitor in both father and son.

“Of course you want bragging rights and what not. But we haven’t been talking at all this week,” the Rams’ safety said on Friday. “We’ll talk after the game. It’s all love there. We’re just both competitors and we want to go out there and get the win.”

The two talk pretty regularly, so the silence between them has been a change.

“We’re just going to chop it up after the game,” T.J. said. “And that will be a good one in the Coliseum.”

In many ways, the younger McDonald has followed in his father’s footsteps on the gridiron. Hard-hitting safeties, T.J. attended the same high school as his father before going down the same path to USC.

Now, they’ll meet at the stadium where they both played their college ball.

“We’re not on the field at the same [time],” said No. 25. “He’s coaching their defensive backs, I’m on the field with [ours]. I just want to go on the field and put on my best display. I’m going to have a lot of family there — want to go out there and put on a good show.”

It certainly will be a family affair on Sunday.

INJURY REPORT

Los Angeles has six players listed on its injury report for Sunday’s matchup against the Bills.

Wide receiver Kenny Brit (thigh), defensive tackle Michael Brockers (hip), safety Cody Davis (groin), defensive end William Hayes (ankle), defensive end Robert Quinn (shoulder), and running back Benny Cunningham (thigh) are all listed as questionable. Cunningham was limited in practice on Friday, as was Davis. Britt was a full participant.

Brockers was a limited participant in Wednesday’s session, but was listed as DNP for Thursday’s estimate and for Friday’s session. Hayes and Quinn did not practice all week.

“We have a tendency of healing up. We still have some time,” Fisher said of the injured defensive linemen. “It’s about being smart. It’s [less] about the lack of practice reps for Rob and Will and Michael [and more] just trying to get them ready for Sunday right now. If they could practice, they would. But we’re concerned about Sunday, [No.] 1.”

Notably for the Bills, running back LeSean McCoy apparently injured his hand in practice on Friday and is listed as questionable. McCoy, however, told ESPN the injury is “something small” and that he “won’t miss the game.”

Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who is returning from a four-game suspension, is also listed as questionable with a thigh injury on the Friday report.