The Falcons made two big splashes in free agency by signing two former Los Angeles Rams. Dante Fowler comes with questions about his performance without Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley comes with questions about his knee. The specifics about Gurley’s knee were always mysterious.
Typically, players rehab from injuries until they are back to full health. They go from being unable to play, to working their way into practice, then back to getting playing time. The injury becomes only a memory.
That has not been the situation with Gurley. He missed only four games in the last three seasons but was under a confusing snap count through all of 2019. Sean McVay, occasional genius, did not forget to give one of his best weapons the ball. Gurley’s trainer shed a little light on the situation last offseason, saying the All Pro had “some kind of arthritic component to his knee” coming out of UGA.
Jay Glazer of The Athletic has more info on Gurley’s knee and what to expect from him in Atlanta.
The knee has issues. It didn’t suddenly become perfect overnight.... The problem with Gurley is you’re not sure when the knee is going to flare up. Certain days, it’s great. Certain days, it’s not. You just don’t know.
This goes hand-in-hand with Gurley’s usage in 2019 and the info we have on his knee. For instance, Gurley played in 15 games in both 2017 and 2019, but he had 56 fewer carries and 33 fewer catches.
That is a drop of more than 5.5 touches per game, but still more touches than Devonta Freeman had in 2019. Per Glazer, Gurley’s time as a workhorse receiving well above 300 touches per season is over, “but run him when you can as much as you can while managing the knee.”
Gurley will probably slot into Freeman’s starting role, while getting a breather primarily from Dirk Koetter’s pass-heavy offense and secondarily from a mix of whatever other backs make the roster. He will almost certainly get heavy touches in the red zone to help remedy Koetter’s scoring issues.