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Practice Report 12/3: Replicating Gurley's Success, Foles to Start at QB

Posted Dec 3, 2015

RB Todd Gurley's breakout game came against the Cardinals in Week 4 and the Rams want to stage a repeat performance this weekend.

In Week 4, running back Todd Gurley made his first pro start against the Cardinals in Arizona. St. Louis’ ground game had not been particularly effective in the first three contests, but head coach Jeff Fisher continued to say the club was close to breaking out.

All that came to fruition in the second half of St. Louis’ 24-22 victory, as Gurley ran for 144 yards in the third and fourth quarters, including runs of 52, 30, 23, and 20 yards. The running back also slid down in the final period instead of running in for what would have been his first NFL touchdown, allowing the Rams to keep the ball and kill the clock.

But even after all that, Gurley said the most memorable part of the game was just coming away with a victory.

“Hopefully, we can get that again and be undefeated in the division,” Gurley said Thursday.

That first Arizona contest started a string of four straight games of at least 125 yards rushing for the rookie out of Georgia. But lately, Gurley’s numbers have gone down. Last week, Gurley had only nine carries for 19 yards.

Offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti said the team would like to get Gurley more carries this weekend in order to kick start the rushing attack again.

“Hopefully like last time, you continue to get better throughout the game,” Cignetti said.

“We had a slow first half against the Cardinals, then we had a big second half,” Fisher said. “We’ve looked hard at it. We just have to continue to give him opportunities. So, we’ll get creative in the run game, and got to get hats on hats, and let him go.”

But the Cardinals will be revved up to slow Gurley down. Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu said this week Arizona may have let up just a bit in the second half of that October matchup, based on how the game had gone through the first two quarters.

“For some reason in the second half, we just didn’t play our assignments the proper way -- getting out of gaps, just creating these large running lanes for Gurley to run through,” Mathieu said. “Obviously, any time you have a running back with his type of ability, any type of open field, it’s a good deal. So, we have to do a better job of constricting running lanes and definitely having more than one person trying to tackle him.”

It’s also been a while since Gurley broke off a long run, as his last rush of at least 20 yards was his 71-yard touchdown against San Francisco on Nov. 1.

“You don’t point your finger at one thing,” Cignetti said. “First off, you give defenses credit. Defenses have done a very nice job. We’re going to continue to give him at bats. The big ones will come.”

But don’t think the decreased production is because of a so-called “rookie wall.”

“What wall?” Gurley replied to that inquiry. “I’m good.”

“He’s in great shape right now,” Fisher said, later adding, “He’s not frustrated. He’s a team guy. He’s having fun, wants to help us win. He knows he’s a big part of this team. His production on the field not only helps offense, it helps defense, it helps everything. He’s in good shape.”

One aspect that may help the ground game pick up is the likely return of right tackle Rob Havenstein to the starting lineup. The rookie offensive lineman has missed three of the last four games due to injury, but Havenstein said Thursday he’s getting back to 100 percent.

“I'm feeling pretty good,” Havenstein said. “Our training staff has been doing an excellent job with me and communicating with everyone, and been on the same page. I'm giving my all to get back out there.”

“It’s great getting Rob back,” Cignetti said. “He’s smart, tough, physical. He’s making tremendous progress every day, every game."

With the myriad injuries across the offensive line, Gurley and the unit have had to make adjustments based on who is out there.

“Same schemes at the end of the day. One man goes down, another man has to step up. It is what it is,” Gurley said. “Rob’s a great player. But, like I said, whoever is in there, we feel confident and we’re going to try and get the job done. Rob is a great player, so definitely happy to have him back.”

According to Havenstein, the key to replicating the success the Rams had against the Cardinals in their first meeting is fairly simple.

“It's just staying on our blocks and giving Todd a chance,” Havenstein said. “He's going to do special things. He's that type of player, that type of back, and the way he works in practice is unbelievable. All we have to do is our job -- whatever your job is on that play, just do your job and just give Todd a chance to make a play.”

If the Rams can do that, they’ll have a great chance to win on Sunday.

FOLES TO START ON SUNDAY

With quarterback Case Keenum still going through the concussion protocol, Fisher said Nick Foles would be the team’s starting signal-caller against Arizona this week.

“It’s part of the protocol, we’re just evaluating [Keenum],” Fisher said. “All the tests with the neurologists and things are OK. It’s just about him feeling 100 percent.”

If Keenum is feeling ready to go on Friday, Fisher said the quarterback could be the backup for Sunday. If not, that role would once again fall to rookie Sean Mannion.

“He’s got a chance to be a [No.] two this week, particularly because he’s missed two days of practice,” Fisher said. “What we’re hoping for is whether he’s a two or just inactive. So, Nick’s going.”

While it won’t be for this week, when Keenum is good to go, Fisher reiterated the Houston product will once again be the team’s starter.

INJURY REPORT

There were no changes from Wednesday to Thursday on the injury report.

Robert Quinn (back), Andrew Donnal (knee), Trumaine Johnson (thigh), and Greg Zuerlein (right hip) did not practice. Keenum (concussion) was able to practice on a limited basis. And Rob Havenstein was a full participant in Thursday’s session.