Falcons will put a touch count on new running back Todd Gurley for 2020, per report

Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter recently admitted that Todd Gurley’s health remains a major question mark entering the 2020 season. Gurley, who has been unable to complete a physical with the Falcons due to the coronavirus pandemic, signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal with Atlanta earlier this offseason. 

Gurley, who suffered career lows in carries (223) and rushing yards (857) during his final season with the Rams, will be on a touch count in Atlanta, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ledbetter estimates that Gurley, based off of Koetter’s recent comments and Gurley’s 2019 usage rate, will be limited to about 15-20 touches a game. Koetter acknowledged that the team has a number in mind as it relates to Gurley’s touch count but would not reveal the specific number. Gurley, a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro running back for the Rams, averaged a career-low 17 touches per game in 2019. 

Gurley’s health has been a major question mark since the end of the 2018 season, when he was barely a factor in the Rams’ loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. Gurley’s trainer, Travelle Gaines, told CBS Sports last offseason that his client is dealing with an “arthritic component to his knee.” It was reported prior to the season that the Rams would try to limit Gurley’s workload in order to help keep him fresh for the duration of the season. Gurley’s lack of touches during pivotal moments became a hot button topic throughout the 2019 season, as Los Angeles failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2016. 

Dr. David Chao, who spent 17 years as the Chargers‘ team doctor, believes that Gurley can still be a productive player as long as his workload is properly managed. In order to keep Gurley healthy for the duration of the season, the Falcons may consider giving him “veterans days off” as it relates to in-season practices. 

“The arthritis in his knee will not go away but can be managed,” Chao wrote for The San Diego Union-Tribune after Gurley was released by the Rams. “Gurley still has plenty of football left in him, but his carriers/touches will need to be limited as well as his practice time. Going forward, Gurley can still add value as a part-time running back, but teams need to adjust expectations given the health of his left knee.”

Despite the questions regarding Gurley’s health, the Falcons did not use any of their six draft picks on a running back. Along with Gurley, Atlanta’s running back room currently consists of Brian HillQadree Ollison, and Ito Smith. The trio of Hill, Ollison and Smith combined to rush for 479 yards and seven touchdowns for the Falcons in 2019. 

Atlanta’s confidence level in Gurley may be among the reasons why the team did not add to their backfield during the draft. 

“He really takes care of his body well,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff  recently said of Gurley, via William McFadden of the Falcons website. “We feel very comfortable with it. He’s a hard-charging runner and we’re counting on him being an excellent player for us.”

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