Carolina Panthers

Panthers defender makes bold prediction about containing Rams RB Todd Gurley on Sunday

A substandard offensive line and defenses that stack the line of scrimmage have made for tough sledding for second-year Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) this season.
A substandard offensive line and defenses that stack the line of scrimmage have made for tough sledding for second-year Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) this season. AP

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley has had nowhere to run during his second NFL season.

The Panthers’ defenders plan to make sure the former Georgia standout has nowhere to hide Sunday at L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

Gurley, the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015, is stuck in a sophomore slump that is not of his own making. A substandard offensive line – combined with Rams coach Jeff Fisher’s insistence on sticking with quarterback Case Keenum – have prompted defenses to stack the box to stop Gurley and make Keenum beat them.

As a result, Gurley has seen his rushing numbers plummet from a rookie season in which he rushed for 1,106 yards despite missing the first two games recovering from ACL surgery.

Gurley is averaging 3.0 yards per carry, compared with 4.8 as a rookie, and 57.6 rushing yards per game. He has yet to rush for 100 yards after posting five 100-yard games in 2015.

Panthers defensive end Wes Horton expects Carolina to extend Gurley’s frustrations at least another week.

“He might break a tackle here and there. But if you’re a disciplined front, everyone’s in their gap; he’s not extra ordinary,” Horton said Thursday. “If everyone’s disciplined and being where they’re supposed to be, I don’t see why he’s (not) held to 30, 40 yards rushing against us.”

Gurley has been held to 58 yards or fewer in five of the Rams’ seven games. Most observers point to an ineffective line as the source of Gurley’s problems.

If you’re a disciplined front, everyone’s in their gap, he’s not extraordinary.

Panthers defensive end Wes Horton on Rams running back Todd Gurley

But as long as Keenum remains among the league’s worst-rated quarterbacks while keeping the seat warm for No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, defenses will continue to load up against Gurley.

“I think when you’ve got a guy as explosive and dynamic as he is, teams are going to be ready for him and they’re going to make sure he doesn’t beat them,” Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “That’s more of a sign of respect for what he’s able to do and what he’s done last year. He’s a dynamic guy. Any time he touches the ball he can score.”

The Panthers throttled Cardinals running back David Johnson last weekend, limiting him to 24 yards on 10 carries in Carolina’s 30-20 victory. Johnson’s longest carry was 9 yards as the Panthers jumped out to a 24-0 lead and forced Carson Palmer to throw nearly every play in the second half to try to catch up.

The Panthers rank third in run defense (allowing 80.1 yards per game). But part of the reason for that is teams have had so much success throwing against Carolina, they haven’t run as much.

Kuechly says the plan every game is to make teams one-dimensional.

Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has a lot of respect for Gurley. He reached out to his fellow Bulldog after Gurley’s ACL injury in college.

Davis thinks Gurley is bound for long-term greatness, but doesn’t want him to achieve any short-term success – at least not Sunday.

“Todd Gurley is a great football player. He means a lot to that organization,” Davis said. “From a run game standpoint, he has the potential to be one of the best to ever do it. We can’t allow him to get off this weekend.”

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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