When the Falcons hired Arthur Smith, the hope from fans was that he’d be able to recreate the success he had with the Titans in Atlanta. In Tennessee, Smith turned a Ryan Tannehill-led offense into one of the best in the NFL, and a large part of that was establishing the ground game with former Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry.
The King rushed for over 2,000 yards in Smith’s last season at the helm, becoming just the eighth player in NFL history to do so, and while there isn’t another back like Henry in the league, Smith was key in unlocking his full potential. Before Smith became the offensive coordinator in 2019, Henry had never even topped 1,100 yards in a season. With Smith, he won back-to-back rushing titles and just might have been the most valuable player in the league in 2020.
Now, there is only one Derrick Henry; he’s a man among boys. But the Falcons may have their own version of a workhorse back in Cordarrelle Patterson. After being relegated to special teams and gadget roles in New England and Chicago, Arthur Smith and Dave Ragone gave Patterson a full-time spot in the offense.
His numbers certainly benefited, as Patterson set career highs in receiving, rushing, and total touchdowns last year — 618 rushing yards (4.0 YPC), six rushing touchdowns, 548 receiving yards (10.5 YPR) and five receiving touchdowns.
The Falcons re-signed Patterson to a very palatable two-year deal worth $10.5 million, and the success has continued in 2022. Through three games, the veteran has totaled over 300 yards on the ground and two touchdowns on 49 carries, good for 6.2 yards per carry. He set a career-high rushing total this past Sunday against the Seahawks, going for 141 yards on 8.3 yards per touch.
Cordarrelle Patterson may be on the wrong side of 30, but he’s certainly not running like it. Over a 17-game stretch, Patterson is on pace to eclipse 1,700 yards on the ground, which would be the highest rushing total by a Falcons player since Michael Turner in 2008.
It’s fair to wonder how the 31-year-old’s body — entering his 10th NFL season coming off a season where he assumed the biggest workload of his career — will react. However, it seems the Falcons were already taking steps to address those issues, as they implemented personalized offseason training for the veteran.
This is very commonplace in today’s NFL. Instead of forcing veterans to participate in every offseason activity, teams elect to have their older players undergo individual training to prolong the players’ bodies, which will sometimes carry over into the regular season. Hopefully, Patterson’s reduced practice workload will prolong his body for the stretch run because his numbers took a dip towards the end of last season.