The Rams defeated the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 despite averaging less than three yards per carry. An amazing defensive line effort, steady work from quarterback Nick Foles and big plays from gadget guy Tavon Austin led the charge in the 34-31 overtime win.
If St. Louis' injury report reflects possible changes for Sunday's matchup at FedEx Field, the ground game may end up playng a leading role.
That's because Todd Gurley and Tre Mason, both inactive for Week 1, participated fully in practice Wednesday and Thursday, according to the official team report.
Benny Cunningham did have some moments out of the backfield against Seattle, though primarily as a pass catcher. He rushed for 45 yards on 16 carries.
He won't get that volume of work if Mason and Gurley are active. Mason, who nearly rushed for 800 yards during his rookie season, aggrevated a hamstring injury during the Rams third preseason game. The second-year back is the likely bell cow against the Redskins.
That is, unless Gurley returns to action earlier than expected.
Considered one of the elite running backs prospects in recent seasons, Gurley suffered a serious knee during his final season at Georgia. St. Louis still used the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft on the 6-foot-1, 227-pounder. His blend of size and speed demands attention. Whenever he's good to go, Gurley has the potential to become a top 10 running back in the NFL and then some.
"Todd is a special player," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said during his media session Thursday when asked about his pre-draft thoughts on the rookie runner. "He's strong, he's fast. If you're going to draw up a running back on XBox, he's probably going to look like Todd Gurley."
The sense is Gurley likely sits out one more week and makes his NFL debut against the Steelers in Week 3. Then again, even a Sept. 27 appearance is earlier than many originally anticipated. Coach Jeff Fisher is expected to reveal his decision Friday.
Gruden explained his defensive instructions Thursday.
"You have to understand when Mason or Gurley are in the game, you have got to wrap up and you better bring some extra people to the party to get them down. You better be pursuing backside, you can’t take any plays off. All 11 guys have got to do their job as far as finishing plays. Obviously our sense of urgency has got to be high, on high-alert when Todd gets the ball or Tre," he said.
Mason rushed 20 times for 66 yards in the Rams' 24-0 win over the Redskins on Dec. 7.
Washington's run defense, led by end Jason Hatcher and nose tackle Terrance Knighton, shut down Miami RB Lamar Miller in the first half of Sunday's 17-10 loss. The Dolphins found a rhythm after halftime and Miller finshed averaging 4.1 yards on 13 carries.