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Rams lineman: 'We're going to make it easier' on Todd Gurley

Rams running back Todd Gurley has just 98 rushing yards on 36 carries through two games. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- It's easy to say the Los Angeles Rams' offensive line needs to do a better job of creating holes for running back Todd Gurley. But it's almost impossible to block two men at once. And when defenses are stacking eight or nine players in the box to specifically guard against the run, there is only so much five offensive linemen can do.

"But," Rams left guard Rodger Saffold said, "there are some ways that we can do a little bit better job of opening some lanes for him. The biggest thing is knowing how to protect against all the different blitzes, the nine-man fronts, to be able to open some lanes. Basically he'll continue to see those things and he'll gain the experience and learn, just vision-wise. 'Hey, this looks good. But there's somebody standing in that hole. I may have to squeeze it through here, pop out the other side.' Those type of things.

"It's a group effort. Our entire team, we have to do a better job of blocking. Our receivers have to dig people out. And then we just have to be able to read and put ourselves in the best situation. I think the coaches are starting to do that for us. We're putting ourselves in some better situations so we can open up some holes for Todd."

That is priority Nos. 1, 2 and 3 for the Rams' offense right now, because nothing will really happen until Gurley gets going.

The Rams' star running back has amassed only 98 yards on 36 carries through the first two weeks, a 28-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers and a 9-3 win over the Seattle Seahawks. His 2.7 yards per carry rank 38th out of 44 qualified running backs. And his average of 0.89 yards before first contact is the third-lowest rate in the NFL, a clear indication that opposing defenses are penetrating the line of scrimmage to suffocate Gurley.

This type of treatment took Saffold back to his first three years with the Rams, from 2010-12, when Steven Jackson was the primary ball-carrier.

Defenses were stacking up to nine men in the box. And when the Rams would run sets with two tight ends -- something the current offense does frequently -- Saffold said "it was very hard to find a lane because everything became a mob of flesh." But Jackson had the ability to quickly see the field, make a defender miss and bounce it to the outside for significant yardage.

"He has the same ability," Saffold said of Gurley. "But we need to make sure that we're cleaner, so that when he makes that first guy miss, we don't have two and three more guys coming after him."

Gurley has already made the Pro Bowl and was the third-leading rusher in 2015. But he's barely 22, with only 14 full games of NFL experience. He's still getting a feel for game speed at this level, still developing his decision-making ability with the ball in his hands.

"We need to make sure that we understand this -- he's still a second-year player," Saffold said. "He's still going to have to continue to learn. But that's not on his shoulders. We'll never put that on his shoulders. We put that on ours. So we're going to make it easier for him to be successful."