Todd Gurley brings Falcons familiarity against Week 1 opponent Seattle

Falcons running back Todd Gurley II (21) runs after a catch during practice Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Atlanta. Gurley, who played college football at Georgia, joined the Falcons this offseason.
Caption
Falcons running back Todd Gurley II (21) runs after a catch during practice Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Atlanta. Gurley, who played college football at Georgia, joined the Falcons this offseason.

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Falcons running back Todd Gurley is very familiar with the opponent for the regular-season opener.

Atlanta, trying to rebound from a 7-9 season, will play Seattle at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium before no fans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the past five seasons, Gurley faced the Seahawks nine times while playing for the St. Louis Rams (2015) and the Los Angeles Rams (2016-19).

The Rams went 6-3 in those games.

Gurley rushed for more that 100 yards in two of the games. He had 152 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns in a 42-7 win over Seattle on Dec. 17, 2017.

He rushed for 120 yards on 16 carries and scored a touchdown in a 36-31 win over Seattle on Nov. 11, 2018.

In four other games, Gurley was held to 51 yards are fewer.

Last Oct. 3, Gurley rushed 15 times for 51 yards and scored two touchdowns in a 30-29 loss. He rushed 23 times for 79 yards and a touchdown in a 28-12 win on Dec. 8.

Overall, Gurley has rushed 163 times for 694 yards and scored 11 touchdowns against the Seahawks. He’s also caught 22 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown.

Gurley warmed up for Seattle in the Falcons’ final scrimmage Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He didn’t get as much action as he did in the previous scrimmage, but he flashed on a big run again.

“He’s been looking good,” Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews said. “On the first play he went for about 10 yards. It was impressive. I’m really excited to have him on our team. Every day watching him has been kind of special. I think he’s going to do a lot of really good things this year.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

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Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews gives a review of scrimmage 4 and the play of RB Todd Gurley.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Fullback Keith Smith is Gurley’s primary lead blocker.

“Todd’s energy is infectious,” Smith said. “He’s a real positive person. Positive player. You see what he brings to the table out there at practice. When you saw him last week in the scrimmage and even this week, he didn’t get much burn in this last scrimmage, but you see why he’s Todd Gurley. The Todd Gurley.”

The Falcons didn’t have a 100-yard rusher in any game last season.

“I’m excited about what he brings to the table,” Smith said. “He works hard. He’s a great teammate. He’s always trying to bring as many people with him as possible. That’s kind of what you need to win.”

After Gurley departed, the backup running backs — Ito Smith, Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison — took over.

“I’m excited because we got so many horses in the stable,” Keith Smith said. “It’s going to be cool to see.”

The Falcons averaged 85.1 yards rushing per game last season. They signed Gurley in free agency to replace Devonta Freeman, who was released after six seasons.

The Falcons did not revamp the offensive line, which will return four of the same five starters in Matthews, center Alex Mack, right guard Chris Lindstrom and right tackle Kaleb McGary. They are likely to open the season with James Carpenter at left guard, while rookie Matt Hennessy battles back from a knee injury.

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Carpenter, 31, was drafted by Seattle in the first round (25th overall) of the 2011 NFL draft. He played for them until 2014, before spending four years with the Jets. He’s in his second season with the Falcons.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn was pleased with Gurley’s ramp up to the season.

“The speed was the thing,” Queen said after the third scrimmage. “He out-ran the leverage on one play. On another one, he got to the edge and made a big play. I felt his speed for certain.”

Gurley, who was the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 2015 and the offensive player of the year in 2017, blended in well with his new line.

“That was part of learning him and us as well,” Quinn said.

The Falcons have limited Gurley, who has had left knee issues, in practice to make sure he’s ready for the games. He averaged 17 touches over 15 games last season.

“What’s the best plan for him? We are pleased with where we are at,” Quinn said. “We think we’ve got a good plan in place of how we’d do the right thing by him to make sure that he’s at his best on game days.”

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