Running back Todd Gurley's comeback tour will begin in earnest when Week 1 rolls around, but buzz is already starting to build that the former Los Angles Ram is ready and able to return to his All-Pro form.
Analyst Bucky Brooks of NFL.com notes in his latest scouting report he's been told by an AFC running backs coach that the 25-year-old, who recently signed with the Atlanta Falcons, can remain productive under the right circumstances. That's despite rumors of a knee issue still hampering the tailback.
"Gurley still has it," the anonymous coach told Brooks. "[The Rams] 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."
In 15 games with LA last season, Gurley saw his production drop sharply. He rushed for a career-low 857 yards with 12 touchdowns, while picking up another 207 yards and two scores through the air. He carried the ball 33 times less in 2019 than he did in 2018 and gained 394 fewer yards. In the passing game, he was targeted 28 times less than in 2018 and saw his production halved.
After being named first-team All-Pro in 2017 and 2018, Gurley finished his last year in Los Angeles with an overall ranking of 67, according Pro Football Focus, and was the 11th-most productive running back in the league.
The Rams cut him on March 19, saving themselves a $12.449 million cap hit in 2020. Now the Falcons will see if they can get the Georgia alum to run like he did when he was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2017. Atlanta reportedly gave Gurley a one-year, $6 million "prove it" deal, which will go a long way to determining what kind of future he still has in the league.
A dominant season could force a big payday for the 25-year-old. Anything less may cause him trouble remaining a starter in the NFL. Brooks believes it'll be the former:
"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."
That would be a fantastic development for the Falcons. With Drew Brees returning to the New Orleans Saints and Tom Brady joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NFC South is now, arguably, the toughest division in football.
Having an MVP-caliber running back could make all the difference as Atlanta looks to come out on top.