After signing a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons in March, former NFL Offensive Player of the Year and Georgia star Todd Gurley hopes to regain his footing as one of the league’s top running backs in the NFC South. With his usage rate considerably lower last season and reports of a degenerative knee condition leading to questions, Gurley has much to prove in the Atlanta backfield.
NFL analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson has reservations about Gurley’s impact. Gurley suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during his junior season at Georgia, but didn’t show ill effects of reported issues with arthritis until the 2019 season with the Los Angeles Rams.
“I was the first guy that thought Todd Gurley would bounce back in 2019. I just figured that what happened to him at the end of 2018 was a fluke and he would be fine in 2019. And I didn’t see that,” Tomlinson said during Friday’s NFL Total Access. “He averaged less than four yards a carry for the second time in his career. But beyond that, his longest run was 25 yards. So I see a guy that doesn’t have that explosiveness to him no more. I don’t believe he’s a guy that can hit the home run on every-single play. He can still be very serviceable. He still has double-digit touchdowns.
“But I believe that at this point in his career, he’s going to need a committee of backs to help him stay fresh. We still may see situations where he might break out and have 125 yards, but those days of him having seven-yard runs, I don’t think we’re going to see that ever again from Todd Gurley. I think his knee is just too bad at this point.”
Gurley led the NFL in rushing touchdowns during the 2017 and 2018 seasons and was effective near the goal line with 12 scores last fall. Still, the narrative surrounding his long-term future in the league has been largely negative since the Rams decided to let him go after the season.
Gurley is anxious to get going with the Falcons.
“This is where it all started for me,” Gurley said of his homecoming in Atlanta. “Obviously, growing up in North Carolina, but that’s kind of where I made my name — going to the University of Georgia, being able to just perform there — and that’s kind of what made me, man. And it’s all my friends are there — you know you make your lifelong friends from college, so all of my friends are there.
“I’m excited, though. I’m not even going to lie. It’s like a good feeling — like a fresh start, but you’ve already been there before. So it’s like the comfortable feeling of just being able to go back to Georgia.”