With Todd Gurley’s knee issues being a focal point in ending his run in Los Angeles, the former All-Pro’s usage in Atlanta will be under the microscope early this season.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter outlined realistic expectations on the plan for Gurley, telling ESPN’s Vaughn McClure that he expects the running back to have between 15-25 touches per game.
“I think a minimum of 15 touches and a high of ,” Koetter said. “But you’ve got to realize we’ve got a lot of guys that need touches. You’re going to have 64 plays in a game on average on offense. Depending on where you’re at in the season and wear and tear, I think the low is 15 and maybe the high end 25.
“Some of that depends on score and where you’re at in the game. Are you ahead and running it? Are you getting in four-minute, and how are you running the ball that week? There’s a lot of factors in there. But again, the low end 15 and the high end 25.”
Last season in L.A., Gurley averaged a shade under 17 touches per game in 15 regular-season tilts, that was down from 22.5 touches per game in 2018 and 22.8 in 2017.
The Rams moved on from Gurley, taking a massive salary cap hit, mostly because they no longer believed he could be the same running back after dealing with a knee issue for more than a year, which stemmed from the ACL he tore at Georgia.
While Sean McVay curtailed Gurley’s carries last year, his usage in the passing game was the most notable aspect of the RB’s game to decline. No longer was he as explosive in space as he’d been in previous years taking advantage of linebackers in coverage. After catching 64 passes in 2017 and 59 in 2018, his total dwindled to just 31 last year, fewest since his rookie season.
How the Falcons are able to use Gurley will tell the tale of how many touches he’ll get per game. Thus far, through training camp, Atlanta has kept Gurley on a load-management schedule holding him out of some practices. He did participate in Monday’s scrimmage, per McClure.
“We really haven’t seen Todd just because there’s no preseason games,” Koetter said. “We haven’t seen Todd totally cut it loose in a live situation. We’ve scrimmaged but we haven’t really done all-out, live. That’s coming up here pretty soon in the next week. But what we’ve seen from Todd so far is all positive. You can really see why he’s one of the best in the business.”
The Falcons expect Gurley to be the lead back with Brian Hill, Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison mixing in. Hill is currently in the lead for top backup duties at this stage.
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