THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- It could, and perhaps should, be called a Todd Gurley II insurance policy.
General manager Les Snead characterized Henderson as the "change-of-pace" back that the organization has been in search of since coach Sean McVay arrived two seasons ago. And McVay said Henderson could "provide a different threat" behind Gurley and backup Malcolm Brown.
Both Snead and McVay’s descriptions of their newest back could be true.
But the Rams’ selection of Henderson with their second pick also raises more questions about the status of Gurley’s left knee, which kept him sidelined for the final two games of the regular season. Gurley returned for the playoffs, and -- as he shared carries with C.J. Anderson -- appeared to return to form as he rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown in a divisional-round win over the Dallas Cowboys. But he struggled in the NFC Championship Game, gaining only 13 total yards on five touches, and then was held to 35 yards in 10 carries in Super Bowl LIII.
“This had to do with his skill set,” McVay said, when asked if Henderson’s addition was tied to Gurley’s knee. “He was a player that we identified as a unique playmaker.”
Henderson is small, at 5-foot-8 and 208 pounds, with big-play ability. He rushed for 22 touchdowns and caught three more as a junior last season and averaged 8.9 yard per carry on his way to 1,909 career rushing yards.
“I’m able to catch out of the backfield. I’m able to return kicks,” Henderson said. “I’m able to run the ball, run hard and do a lot of things.”
"You see the explosiveness," McVay said.
Gurley, who signed a four-year, $60 million extension before last season, offered Henderson a warm welcome on social media after his selection.
But it remains to be seen how much all three backs -- Gurley, Brown (who signed a two-year, $3.25 million deal as a restricted free agent last month) and Henderson -- will get to play.
McVay said that Henderson was a back who could prompt him to break from his almost singular use the past two seasons of his 11-personnel scheme (three receivers, one running back and one tight end) and that he could deploy more personnel groupings, perhaps to include two running backs, this season.
“Being able to give somebody a chance to come in and provide a different threat is exactly what we identified” in Henderson, McVay said.
Since the Rams' loss in the Super Bowl, Snead and McVay have said that they must manage Gurley’s workload. But McVay also has maintained that Gurley would remain a focal point of the Rams’ prolific offense.
“We anticipate Todd being a huge part of this like he has been the last couple years,” McVay said. “As far as managing the workload, those are things that we talk about with Todd and as you continue to get educated on, is that something that we should do for the long haul or something that is or isn’t going to affect Todd most importantly and how does that affect our team.”
Gurley said at the start of voluntary offseason workouts two weeks ago that he was "feeling good” and was “taking it day by day” as he prepared for the upcoming season. But when asked if he could confirm reports that he was suffering from a degenerative condition or arthritis, Gurley offered no label at all. “All I can focus on is how I’m doing right now,” he said.
So while Gurley remains focused on the present, the Rams have clearly mapped a plan for their future. How exactly it involves Gurley is unlikely to be seen until September.