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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.
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Not sure if already posted, Brooks makes some very interesting points. 

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Potential Reward is worth the Risk. Falcons will find out next season if the gamble pays off. It's not like we have an option nearly as good on the roster now, and an 85% Gurley is arguably equal to any RB we could get in the draft. And THAT draft a RB option would certainly cost us another potential Starter at a Need Position for 2020.

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In my opinion we don’t need Gurley to be a workhorse...maybe he gets a game or two where he has around 30 carries because he’s just having an awesome game and feeling great but we don’t need Gurley to be the face of the offense when we have Julio, Ryan, Ridley!
 

We just need him to contribute and actually give us a running game identity for our offense .

At the end of the day Gurley may not be elite anymore but he’s still a very good back and he’s valuable.
 

Gurleys biggest value for our falcons is this....

In many seasons with Matt Ryan as our QB the offense finds a way to move the ball between the 20s even in down seasons or change of offensive coordinator seasons, we ALWAYS tend to find a way to consistently move the ball between the 20s in most games throughout the season. BUT It’s finishing once we get into the redzone that has been the biggest offensive  problem in many seasons since Matty Ice has been QB. That’s not to blame Ryan solely of course bu rather the whole offense itself including the coaching staff. 
 

BUT Here’s where Gurley is most valuable to is (again in my opinion)...Much like Turner could punch us into the end zone during his prime days, Gurley can still and will bring that same value back to us that we haven’t had since Super Bowl year and even before SB year we were missing it when Turner was clearly heading towards retirement. You see i don’t pers care if Gurley has just 800 yards rushin or a low total in all purpose yards...if he can be our focal point and get us TDs either by rushing or receiving in the redzone he’s going to be huge value. We need Gurley to bring his ability to score in the redzone, give us something on short yardage runs, and at times give us something when there’s nothing on some plays...ALL things he can still do at a high level. Unlike the rams we will not be depending on him for everything offensively. Perhaps he will just be depended on in the redzone more since he has a reputation of being able to get into the endzone.

last I will say I can see games were Gurley may just have 65-75 yards rushing but 2-3 TDs with our offense.

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1 hour ago, JT said:

In my opinion we don’t need Gurley to be a workhorse...maybe he gets a game or two where he has around 30 carries because he’s just having an awesome game and feeling great but we don’t need Gurley to be the face of the offense when we have Julio, Ryan, Ridley!
 

We just need him to contribute and actually give us a running game identity for our offense .

At the end of the day Gurley may not be elite anymore but he’s still a very good back and he’s valuable.
 

Gurleys biggest value for our falcons is this....

In many seasons with Matt Ryan as our QB the offense finds a way to move the ball between the 20s even in down seasons or change of offensive coordinator seasons, we ALWAYS tend to find a way to consistently move the ball between the 20s in most games throughout the season. BUT It’s finishing once we get into the redzone that has been the biggest offensive  problem in many seasons since Matty Ice has been QB. That’s not to blame Ryan solely of course bu rather the whole offense itself including the coaching staff. 
 

BUT Here’s where Gurley is most valuable to is (again in my opinion)...Much like Turner could punch us into the end zone during his prime days, Gurley can still and will bring that same value back to us that we haven’t had since Super Bowl year and even before SB year we were missing it when Turner was clearly heading towards retirement. You see i don’t pers care if Gurley has just 800 yards rushin or a low total in all purpose yards...if he can be our focal point and get us TDs either by rushing or receiving in the redzone he’s going to be huge value. We need Gurley to bring his ability to score in the redzone, give us something on short yardage runs, and at times give us something when there’s nothing on some plays...ALL things he can still do at a high level. Unlike the rams we will not be depending on him for everything offensively. Perhaps he will just be depended on in the redzone more since he has a reputation of being able to get into the endzone.

last I will say I can see games were Gurley may just have 65-75 yards rushing but 2-3 TDs with our offense.

Exactly. We dont need help with yardage outside the.20s.

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Posted (edited)

Still 'meh' on Gurly, but hope he can prove me wrong and help get this run game going. Still need a better OL above all else.

Since we got Fowler and Gurly from the Rams, wonder if they're willing to give us Donald too?

 

Edited by BoomGoesTheDynamite

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IMO where Gurley may have a huge impact for us will be the red zone.  You gonna double/triple Julio or worry about Gurley?  Gonna be nearly impossible to eliminate both threats.  In fact, I’ll go as far to say the only force on earth that can stop that red zone attack is Dirk Koetter.  

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1 hour ago, m2Falcons said:

Potential Reward is worth the Risk. Falcons will find out next season if the gamble pays off. It's not like we have an option nearly as good on the roster now, and an 85% Gurley is arguably equal to any RB we could get in the draft. And THAT draft a RB option would certainly cost us another potential Starter at a Need Position for 2020.

 Red zone alone he might be well worth it! He gets it to the end zone so very well.

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7 minutes ago, Farmer2 said:

IMO where Gurley may have a huge impact for us will be the red zone.  You gonna double/triple Julio or worry about Gurley?  Gonna be nearly impossible to eliminate both threats.  In fact, I’ll go as far to say the only force on earth that can stop that red zone attack is Dirk Koetter.  

And DK is very effective at that.

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29 minutes ago, Farmer2 said:

IMO where Gurley may have a huge impact for us will be the red zone.  You gonna double/triple Julio or worry about Gurley?  Gonna be nearly impossible to eliminate both threats.  In fact, I’ll go as far to say the only force on earth that can stop that red zone attack is Dirk Koetter.  

Falcons gotta get a lot better in run blocking - especially in the red zone.

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3 minutes ago, g-dawg said:

Falcons gotta get a lot better in run blocking - especially in the red zone.

Agree. I don’t think people have a clue how good the Rams run blocking was in 2017-2018. Their scheme/play designs  were awesome as well.  

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DK wont coach in the league again if he cant make this a top 10 offense - or he shouldnt rather - Blank has not made the best dec with coaches - i know the league all "runs" the same stuff but how you approach each play is where you get the defense to hesitate.  DK has not really shown consistency there - we have seen some creative stuff for sure but not like the other offensive head coaches currently in the NFL

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3 hours ago, g-dawg said:

Brooks writes that entire article and didn’t say the words “arthritic” or “knee” once.

Said he needs a bigger workload.

He didn’t suffer some new injury since being drafted.  Nobody mentioned arthritis in 2016, 2017 or most of 2018.  There is an “arthritis component” to the injury he suffered vs Auburn.  That has always been a known.

I said it before we signed Gurley...watch his  highlights from last year  and you see a few things.  His OL was trash...he was not used enough to get in rhythm...his quickness, COD, toughness, vision and hands were on point

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1 hour ago, g-dawg said:

Falcons gotta get a lot better in run blocking - especially in the red zone.

Hoping having Lindstrom back and McGary more experienced will help. And of course fix the **** show at LG. Praying Brown can get his head right and take the position. Carp is just hopeless and needs to be a June 1 cut.

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9 minutes ago, FalconsIn2012 said:

He didn’t suffer some new injury since being drafted.  Nobody mentioned arthritis in 2016, 2017 or most of 2018.  There is an “arthritis component” to the injury he suffered vs Auburn.  That has always been a known.

I said it before we signed Gurley...watch his  highlights from last year  and you see a few things.  His OL was trash...he was not used enough to get in rhythm...his quickness, COD, toughness, vision and hands were on point

I have already pointed out on some breakaway runs - those would have been TDs two years ago.   Gurley is so good that 80-90% of him still looks pretty good on tape.

McVay helped Gurley become an MVP player - he’s a smart guy and didn’t forget how to use Todd Gurley.  Where is this factored into your assessment?  The public comments aside I believe McVay and Todd were trying to keep the injury on the down low as much as possible.

Also your comment about arthritis doesn’t show you understand it.  It’s not like an ACL where it gets better over time - arthritic knees get worse over time - it’s degenerative.   I have them as well.

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10 minutes ago, g-dawg said:

I have already pointed out on some breakaway runs - those would have been TDs two years ago.   Gurley is so good that 80-90% of him still looks pretty good on tape.

McVay helped Gurley become an MVP player - he’s a smart guy and didn’t forget how to use Todd Gurley.  Where is this factored into your assessment?  The public comments aside I believe McVay and Todd were trying to keep the injury on the down low as much as possible.

Also your comment about arthritis doesn’t show you understand it.  It’s not like an ACL where it gets better over time - arthritic knees get worse over time - it’s degenerative.   I have them as well.

His success rate vs 7 man box was #1 in the NFL the last two years.  Our weapons will prevent lots of stacked boxes and as such Gurley can thrive with us

 

And I fully understand the nature of rheumatoid arthritis.  But Gurley is 25.  Doctors agree that therapy and other measures can prevent serious deterioration for a few years

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5 minutes ago, FalconsIn2012 said:

His success rate vs 7 man box was #1 in the NFL the last two years.  Our weapons will prevent lots of stacked boxes and as such Gurley can thrive with us

 

And I fully understand the nature of rheumatoid arthritis.  But Gurley is 25.  Doctors agree that therapy and other measures can prevent serious deterioration for a few years

The point is simply Gurley can be effective player for Falcons but it’s highly unlikely there will be a “re-birth” of what he once was - an MVP type player.  

More likely a “new-normal” that is an effective tandem back with a carved out role in the running/passing game - and that’s OK.

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I have always liked Brooks analysis. He is one of the few who has his own opinions and does his research. Most reporters and analysts regurgitate the same stuff over and over.


I am excited about Gurley and his tape from 2019 doesn’t show someone who has slowed down. Is the knee a concern? Of course. But injuries are a concern for every player in the NFL.

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