Since he was selected No. 10 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, Todd Gurley has been one of the most productive players in the NFL.
He's taken 1,042 carries and caught 187 passes — giving him a combined 1,229 touches over four years. Gurley's been especially productive in the last two seasons under head coach Sean McVay, with a combined 658 touches for 3,924 yards from scrimmage with 40 total touchdowns in the regular season.
Check out the best photos of the Rams running backs from the 2018 season.
As you're surely aware, Gurley missed the last two games of the regular season after suffering a knee injury. And though he rushed for 115 yards on 16 carries against the Cowboys in the Divisional Round, Gurley had just 45 yards rushing on 14 carries combined in the Conference Championship and Super Bowl LIII.
Gurley and McVay have both been consistent in saying that the running back was healthy during the postseason — which is what Gurley's performance against the Cowboys would suggest. And McVay reiterated at the NFL Combine last week that Gurley has no surgeries scheduled for this offseason.
Still, there is an element of wear and tear that McVay and general manager Les Snead are aware of. And that's why both said last week that Los Angeles would like to manage Gurley's workload going forward, especially considering Gurley's history after tearing his ACL during his final year at Georgia back in 2014.
"[O]ver that time there's an element of wear and tear and I think we have to determine in two stages," Snead said last week. "Are we going to give him the amount of load that he's had in the past or are we going to lessen that load and, let's say keep him fresher for the season and for seasons beyond? And then, if you go that route, you have to have a good let's call it Batman and Robin combination or add another superhero figure into that and figure out how you're gonna do it. So we're in the process of figuring that out."
"And I do think Todd, in his career — and it happens to a lot of young guys — all of a sudden they wake up [and] it's like a marathon runner," Snead added. "If you run a lot of marathons all of a sudden you wake up and you're sorer than you were the day before so recovery and things like that have to come into it. So it's something we want to be intentional about and proactive."
McVay had much the same message in describing how the Rams would like to move forward with Gurley.
"You want to be able to first and foremost sit down and talk with Todd, figure out what is the best way to really navigate the way to maximize his skill set but then also have a long-term vision for the 16 games that you are guaranteed, and then hopefully if you're fortunate enough to get some action after that. So those are things that you definitely want to think through," McVay said.
"I think that he's done such a great job of being able to hold up. I mean when you look at really specifically the last two years, what he's been able to do from a production standpoint is unmatched. And then, really, how do you have a long-term vision for him where he's still able to be the caliber of player that we've been accustomed to seeing from Todd that is making an impact in the run and the pass, he's great in protection — so all those things do come into play."
"But I think a lot of that is predicated on, all right what is the vision and then what are the players that you do have, what kind of personnel groups? And then you know C.J. [Anderson] did such a nice job coming in that I think it enabled us to be able to be a little bit more balanced and cognizant of all right how do we manage those snaps and things of that nature."
So both McVay and Snead mentioned having another option at running back that can come in and be productive to help spell Gurley. Running back Malcolm Brown showed he has the potential to be that guy, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 10.4 yards per reception in 2018 before going down with a season-ending clavicle injury in December. Brown, however, had played only 15 percent of offensive snaps to that point.
Brown is now a restricted free agent, whereas Anderson — who rushed for 299 yards combined in Weeks 16 and 17 — is an unrestricted free agent. The Rams could elect to bring either back for that second "superhero figure," sign another free agent, elevate the roles of the backs already on the roster in Justin Davis and John Kelly, or select a player in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Either way, it's fair to expect that the Rams will have an altered plan for the running back position heading into 2019.