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GURLEY'S REBIRTH? Don't underestimate the back's dynamic potential in Atlanta Don't let Todd Gurley's recent release from the Los Angeles Rams fool you into believing he's a washed-up player incapable of making a resurgence as the Atlanta Falcons' RB1. The 2017 Offensive Player of the Year will not only enjoy a major bounceback season, but he will re-emerge as an MVP candidate while serving as the centerpiece of an offense that will light up scoreboards across the league. I know those are lofty expectations for a running back coming off a disappointing season on a team that was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender, but Gurley is joining the best offense that he's ever played on. The 2020 Falcons have better personnel at the marquee skill positions, and their offensive line is a significant upgrade over the unit Gurley left in Los Angeles. Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself. Would you rather have Matt Ryan or Jared Goff? How about the combination of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst vs. Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett/Tyler Higbee? What about an offensive line in Atlanta that features five former first-round picks? You want that, or L.A.'s patchwork group that struggled for most of 2019 following the departures of Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan? Unless you're a Rams homer, you'd pick the Falcons' nominees in each scenario. The Dirty Birds have premier players on the perimeter, including one of the best receivers in all of football, as well as a former MVP at quarterback. The mere presence of Jones and Ryan will create more opportunities for Gurley to get loose, and he's proven that he's a monster against light boxes in the recent vintage. According to Next Gen Stats, Gurley faced a light box (fewer than seven defenders) on 43.7 percent of the Rams' offensive snaps in 2017 and '18, compiling a robust yards-per-carry average of 5.8 -- most among running backs with a minimum of 100 rushing attempts in this span. Looking at the Falcons' roster and their potential "11" personnel package (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR), the offense should face plenty of light boxes. Opponents will be forced to largely concentrate on defending the Ryan-Jones connection, with Ridley serving as a high-end complement on the back side. Atlanta will be able to take advantage of those looks by getting the ball to Gurley on an assortment of runs and passes out of the backfield. Before you @ me regarding Gurley's diminishing production in 2019, I think it is fair to ask if No. 30's talents were maximized by Sean McVay and Co. during his final season in L.A. In 2017 and '18, Gurley averaged 22.7 touches, 88.1 rush yards and 135.3 scrimmage yards with 40 total touchdowns. In 2019, those numbers plummeted to 16.9 touches, 57.1 rush yards and 70.9 scrimmage yards with 14 total touchdowns. In addition, Gurley's playtime percentages (75.8 to 74.6 to 71.5) and touch percentage (45.4 to 40.0 to 33.8) steadily decreased over the past three seasons. Did Gurley's health dictate the reduction, or did McVay forget about his top offensive weapon? Remember, McVay pointed the finger at himself in early December. Asked about what caused an uptick in usage for the back, the coach deadpanned, "Me not being an idiot." "Gurley still has it," I was told by an AFC running backs coach who studied the Pro Bowler after his release. "They didn't use him enough, but his speed, burst and running skills are still there. ... He just needs to be featured like he was in 2017 and 2018. If he gets the rock, he will put up big numbers." And as I mentioned before, the Rams' offensive line did not get the job done last season. At the end of the regular season, Pro Football Focus ranked the unit 31st. Tough to run through holes that don't exist. It's easy to dismiss a running back when he has reached a certain point of his career, but I wouldn't underestimate Gurley's chances of re-emerging as one of the top playmakers in football, especially given his upgraded supporting cast in Atlanta. Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Not sure if already posted, Brooks makes some very interesting points.
http://www.nfl.com/videos/move-the-sticks/0ap3000000810754/Top-3-Breakout-Sophomores-Offense #3 - Paul Perkins, RB - NY Giants #2 - Austin Hooper, TE - Atlanta Falcons - "Hooper is getting more comfortable in Year#2, being on same page w/ Matt Ryan, We saw him step-up in post-season, I think he takes another big step this year - 3 TDs last year, I think he gets to 9-10 TDs this year - I think he is due for a BIG year" - Daniel Jeremiah. "One thing we know is Matt Ryan loves to throw to everybody in that offense, he will distribute the ball to anyone who is open - Austin Hooper got open a lot last year, I agree and I think 9-10 TDs is do-able." - Bucky Brooks #1 - Corey Coleman, WR - Cleveland Browns
click on the link below - nice little 4 minute video when Falcons drafted Takk in real time.. Bucky compares Takk to an "in his prime" Tamba Hali. I remember two offseasons ago we tried to get in on Tamba - obviously Pioli was probably a Tamba fan as well - makes since that we would get our own. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000807634/article/takkarist-mckinley-i-have-best-motor-in-this-class Takkarist McKinley: I have 'best motor in this class' 0 By Marc Sessler Around the NFL Writer Published: May 10, 2017 at 11:40 a.m. Updated: May 10, 2017 at 11:56 a.m. http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-videos/0ap3000000803586/Instant-Draft- We know he's fired up about landing in the first round of last month's NFL draft. Takkarist McKinley, though, isn't done talking, insisting the Falcons got a steal with the No. 26 overall pick and telling the team's official website that he brings something no other rookie can. "I'm relentless," McKinley said. "I've got heart. I do have the best motor in this class. I'm just somebody that goes hard no matter what. If it's a screen pass, I'm chasing you down." McKinley logged a phenomenal 4.64 time in the 40 at the Combine after spending his high school days as a track star. A STATS study revealed that the pass rusher notched a "sack, pressure, hurry, knockdown, stuff, impact tackle or pass defensed on 24 percent of the snaps he played" last season at UCLA, per the Falcons' official website. In Dan Quinn's defense, look for McKinley to be used in multiple ways under linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, who coached the defender in college. The Falcons will likely employ him as a strong-side linebacker in their base defense and a right end in nickel sets. "The intensity that he wants to play the game with, I really respect that about him and admire that in his game," Quinn said of McKinley. "His toughness, his speed ... this guy is a dog competitor. He was somebody that we've watched for a long time, and certainly had in our sights. We hoped he would have a chance to contribute to our team, based on the speed, the finishing ability, the toughness, so we're really pumped about having him here." The Falcons quickly improved their defense over the past two seasons with productive drafts that added star pass-rusher Vic Beasley, speedy linebacker Deion Jones and hard-hitting safety Keanu Neal. While the Jaguars never bloomed on defense under former Seahawks coordinator Gus Bradley, Quinn has proven that Seattle's system can be duplicated beyond the Pacific Northwest. It's fair to question McKinley's "motor" comments with a guy like Myles Garrett operating in Cleveland, but Atlanta has proven they can develop players on defense. This match bodes well for the Falcons rookie.