Todd Gurley is doubtful and Aqib Talib is ruled out for the Rams’ game
Malcolm Brown has started one NFL game. Darrell Henderson has one NFL carry.
With star running back Todd Gurley doubtful for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, Brown and Henderson could be featured performers at the Coliseum in a key NFC West Division game.
Rams coach Sean McVay said Friday that the thigh bruise Gurleyin a loss to the Seattle Seahawks was improving but Gurley did not practice and is listed as doubtful to play against the unbeaten 49ers. Cornerback Aqib Talib did not practice and will sit out the game because of a rib injury.
Gurley was sidelined the last two games of the 2018 season because of a knee injury, including the finale against the then-struggling 49ers. With running back C.J. Anderson leading the way, the playoff-bound Rams won both games.
But this situation is different.
The Rams are 3-2 and have lost two games in a row — they never have lost three consecutive games under McVay — and the 49ers are off to a 4-0 start.
“We’re a better team when we do have Todd Gurley,” McVay said, “but if he’s not feeling right, then that’s where you have the confidence in the other guys to step up.”
Marcus Peters and Rams defense have been beaten for big plays the last couple of weeks, but coaches and teammates say no one player is responsible.
The Rams moved on from Anderson after the 2018 season. But with Gurley’s left knee expected to be an ongoing issue, this is the kind of situation that led the Rams to match the offer sheet Brown received in March from the Detroit Lions as a restricted free agent.
Brown, a fifth-year pro, has rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns in 26 carries this season. In 2017, he started the season finale against the 49ers when McVay rested starters for the playoffs. Brown rushed for 54 yards in 14 carries and caught four passes in a 34-13 defeat.
Brown said he would be ready if Gurley does not play Sunday.
“Never want to see my dog hurting like that,” Brown said of Gurley on Friday, “but it’s definitely an opportunity for me, and something I’ve got to take advantage of and go out there and do what I can to contribute.”
Henderson, a third-round draft pick from Memphis, was in for two plays in the opener against the Carolina Panthers. On first and goal from the five-yard line, he carried the ball for no gain.
Henderson has not played on offense since, but has contributed on special teams. After the 30-29 loss to the Seahawks, McVay said he needed to do more to develop Henderson and give him opportunities.
Richard Sherman’s veteran presence has helped the 49ers to a 4-0 start as they prepare for NFC West showdown with Rams in his hometown of L.A.
Henderson has “a great feel for the game,” and “a nice skill set that makes him a versatile piece,” McVay said. .
Said Henderson: “Whatever my role is, I’m going to be prepared.”
Running back John Kelly, a sixth-round draft pick in 2018, is on the practice squad. The Rams also could opt to move Kelly to the roster for Sunday’s game.
“If Todd’s out, you might have to find another spot to get three backs up,” McVay said. “That could be something that you could see us potentially do.”
Gurley has been working with trainers to recover from the thigh injury since the Rams returned to Los Angeles from Seattle last Friday, McVay said.
“If you get caught in the right spot, those things, it’s hard where you can’t get that full range of motion back,” McVay said. “Especially when so much of your movement is predicated on being able to put your foot in the ground and have those reactionary movements as a runner.”
The Rams suffered first meaningful NFC West loss in nearly two years and absorbed an early setback in their quest for three consecutive NFC West crowns.
Gurley has “been doing everything in his power to be able to get himself ready to go,” McVay said. “He’s held up his end of the bargain.”
As he did last season when Talib was sidelined because of an ankle injury, Troy Hill will start in his spot opposite Marcus Peters.
“You never wish that on nobody because Talib is a great player, a Hall of Fame player,” Hill said. “But I’ve been here before, so I know how the season can be. So I prepare myself for these situations the whole season.”
Gurley, linebacker Samson Ebukam and safety John Johnson were evacuated from their homes because of fire in the area, McVay said. Ebukam politely declined to answer questions about the situation, saying he did not want to be distracted from preparation for the game. Ebukam will start in place of injured Clay Matthews. ... Receiver Brandin Cooks (concussion), linebacker Bryce Hager (shoulder) and safety Taylor Rapp (ankle) were full participants in practice, according to the Rams injury report.
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