Georgia and Atlanta sports fans burst with emotion when the Falcons signed Todd Gurley in April. I used the word emotion instead of happiness because there are just as many people unsure about the addition as there are those thrilled with it. The two-time All-Pro has had a memorable career to this point, but his chronic knee issues caused the Rams to part ways with him just two years after he signed a four-year extension for $60 million that was supposed to take him through 2023.
Gurley began his career with a bang, winning the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year award before taking home Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2017. Last season, however, his numbers, health, and reputation took a significant hit. Now, one of the lingering questions surrounding the Falcons 2020 campaign: How will Gurley’s knees hold up?
Best Case Scenario
The rumor on the street is that Gurley is as healthy as he possibly can be. If this is the case, he will be a part of an offense full of stars — an elite quarterback in Matt Ryan and a receiving corps that is one of the best in the league. It should be an ideal situation for an explosive ball carrier to succeed.
Gurley is also the perfect running back for Matt Ryan, who thrives in play-action. The Falcons offense will be lethal if Gurley can have a successful season and could look a lot the historic 2016 group. That is… if Dirk Koetter can get out of the way. The best-case scenario for Gurley this season would be 1,600+ scrimmage yards and 15+ total touchdowns, which should lead to another All-Pro nomination.
Worst Case Scenario
The last thing anyone wants to happen is for Gurley’s nagging injuries to cause an issue this season. Even though he played in 15 games last year for the Rams, they closely monitored his workload, and he never looked like himself. Suppose he cannot overcome that this year, then the Falcons are looking at mediocre production and a few missed games from the former star. Atlanta would be forced to use a running back by committee with Brian Hill and Ito Smith. However, those two have been able to hold their own over the past two seasons.
Unless Gurley’s knee experiences a miraculous healing, he will likely provide something in the middle. I don’t see him ever returning to his All-Pro form over 16 games because his knee issues will not allow him to be the 25+ carry back he used to be each week. Some days he can handle that load, and on others, he will have to be used primarily as a decoy.
That doesn’t mean he cannot put together an excellent season in Atlanta. I think he will eclipse 1,300 yards from scrimmage and ten touchdowns. Even in a down year for the Rams last year, he scored 14 touchdowns and recorded over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. That is more than enough for Atlanta’s offense to be one of the best in the league. The Falcons don’t need him to be their focal point. They are a pass-first team that will continue to attack through the air with weapons like Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Atlanta also has the running back depth to use Gurley sparingly when he’s not needed. What they need is for Gurley to provide that occasional explosiveness in the running game that they have lacked for three seasons now, which will make life much easier for Matt Ryan. Gurley should have more than enough in the tank to provide that.