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Koetter: Todd Gurley's health the big unknown for Falcons

Atlanta has a new look, thanks to new uniforms and a major change in its backfield.

Like the fresh threads, we won't quite know how well the Falcons will perform until we see them on the field. The same goes for Todd Gurley, a former MVP who hasn't looked much like one in the last two seasons.

"The main question is that no one seems to know is what's his health status?" Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter. "What's his workload? He averaged about 17 touches a game last year, which is about a little bit lower than he had been when he was All-Pro. We're just gonna have to find that out once we get here and get him working. Get him up and running."

The Falcons signed Gurley without getting a close look at his medical evaluation because of the restrictions placed on most of society during the COVID-19 pandemic. The team made it clear it was a minimal risk at best because of language in the contract that would protect both the team and Gurley in the event he cannot fulfill it, but there's still a vital-yet-unknown element that Koetter described.

How helpful can Gurley truly be?

Gurley's workload decreased significantly in the second half of 2018 and most of 2019, as Koetter referenced, and most everyone expects the cause to be his knee, which gave him issues down the stretch in a 2018 run to the Super Bowl. Gurley simply hasn't looked like the same runner who sprinted through defenses in 2017.

Gurley's knee injury history didn't scare off the Rams in the 2015 draft, and they reaped the rewards from selecting him 10th overall. They were quick to cut bait this offseason, though, after failing to find a trade partner. Having completed a similar divorce with Devonta Freeman earlier in the offseason, the Falcons were happy to scoop up Gurley on a much more affordable deal that will pay him just $5.5 million in the lone year of the contract.

The answer everyone wants likely won't be available until well into the 2020 season. Gurley is joining an offense that won't require all that much learning, greasing the skids for him to step right into a significant role and potentially produce. That's the key, though: production. It feels more like a make-or-break season than anything, which is startling when considering Gurley will be just 26 years old by the time the season arrives.

"Really fortunate for us that he's coming from a real similar offensive system terminology wise," Koetter continued. "The run game is very similar conceptually to what they were doing in L.A. I know from talking to Todd that he's fired up to be coming back to Georgia. He can do everything. He's an excellent runner, he's good in the pass game, he can protect."

Gurley undoubtedly has plenty of pro experience, a product of racking up serious NFL miles on his tires. We shall see this fall whether he just needed new tread.

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