We are all sleeping on the Matt Ryan and Todd Gurley combo in 2020

Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Matt Ryan, Todd Gurley can make the Atlanta Falcons playoff contenders.

The Atlanta Falcons have 11 former first-round picks on the offensive side of the ball.

It’s an absurd amount of talent. Whether general manager Thomas Dimitroff drafted them or they came aboard via free agency, the Dirty Birds are loaded with all sorts of blue-chippers on offense. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has to be ecstatic about it, but also has to realize that any failure on that side of the ball this year falls directly onto him.

The biggest thing holding the Falcons offense back the last three years has been inconsistency in the running game. When Kyle Shanahan left for the San Francisco 49ers head-coaching gig in 2017, he took with him his family’s secret zone-blocking scheme recipe. Atlanta could still move the sticks with quarterback Matt Ryan, but the ground game’s effectiveness dried up completely.

One of the more high-profile moves the Falcons made this offseason was signing former Los Angeles Rams All-Pro running back Todd Gurley the day after he was cut by his former employer. Despite major concerns about his knee, Atlanta believes his talent, work ethic and a homecoming to Georgia will get the best out of the former UGA standout.

In recent weeks, Ryan has gone to Southern California to work out with Gurley, who is still over there after being let go by the Rams. Per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, Ryan has been “really impressed” by the Falcons’ new starting running back.

“I’ve gotten to work with Todd and he’s awesome,” said Ryan to McClure. “Really, really good guy. A hard worker. He’s super-smart. The stuff I was telling him one day, the next day he had it done. I was really impressed with his ability to retain information. You don’t have to tell him twice. He’s on it.”

Matt Ryan, Todd Gurley’s Falcons connection is off to a great start.

Ryan has also held workouts with his teammates back in Atlanta during this chaotic offseason. Teammates like Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Ito Smith and newcomer tight end Hayden Hurst have done field work this spring with the former NFL MVP. It’s all gearing up towards what could be a special season for the Falcons nobody outside of Flowery Branch is expecting.

Since 2004, the Falcons have made the NFC playoffs each year there has been a presidential election in the United States of America. The only year the Dirty Birds didn’t win the NFC South came in Ryan’s rookie year in 2008, when Atlanta lost to the eventual NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals in Glendale on Wild Card Weekend.

Atlanta went 7-9 the last two seasons after making the NFC playoffs in consecutive years in 2016 and 2017. There have been moments the last two years where the Falcons have demonstrated they can hold their own against the best teams in the conference. Whether it be injuries, defensive breakdowns or a non-existent running game, the Falcons have been consistently inconsistent.

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So how does adding a player like Gurley who not everyone is sold on given his injury history help the Falcons contend for the playoffs? The idea is he’ll be a step up from what the Dirty Birds had in Devonta Freeman, a guy who is great running between the tackles and catching balls out of the backfield. Gurley is better than Freeman in both areas and immensely better in pass protection.

As long as the Falcons are not bottom-tier running the football again, they should be in position to win somewhere around nine or 10 games. Doing that will get them a Wild Card spot in the expanded playoff field. While we shouldn’t count on them to win the NFC South, the passing game and improved defense down the stretch are reasons they can be a top-half team in the NFC.

There’s a lot of things lining up for the Falcons this year. Head coach Dan Quinn has to win to keep his job. While the redundant cliches have approached Butch Jones levels, he really does care about his players and they love playing for him. In this political climate, look for the Brotherhood in Atlanta to get a second wave and propel the team closer to a playoff berth.

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Ryan is not only taking the initiative to get as many offensive players on the same page as possible, but he’s taken a stand against police brutality in America and an advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement. He set up a GoFundMe with an initial $500,000 donation to Advancing The Lives (ATL) Of The Black Community. Ryan’s leadership continues to be awe-inspiring.

If Ryan and Gurley’s connection strengthens, the Falcons will be back in the NFC playoffs.