Falcons: What will the committee of Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson provide for Arthur Smith’s offense?

164201116231 min at chi

Arthur Smith has already made it clear that the Falcons will use a running back by committee approach. “We’re not going to have Derrick Henry here,” Smith said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “So, it’s not like I think we’re going to have Derrick Henry.” There is only one Derrick Henry, that is obvious. “The reality is that we’ll get multiple backs in here, and we’ll have the way we trust our schemes and the way we teach the details of it, and we’ll commit to it,” Smith said. “That should provide hope to people because of that mindset.”

After signing Mike Davis to a two-year, $5.5 million contract with $3 million guaranteed in the first year, the Falcons have at least one experienced running back on the roster. The other, Cordarrelle Patterson, isn’t as experienced, who signed a one-year deal worth $3 million. The combination of Davis and Patterson will likely be Arthur Smith’s defacto RB1 and RB2, barring Terry Fontenot drafting a running back prospect in the draft, which I do think is a guarantee.

Davis and Patterson offer two different running styles, as the former is a bullish runner who never goes down on first contact, while the latter is a slashing style of running back with more explosive, breakaway speed. Patterson is an elusive, one-cut type of ‘running back.’ Though he will play a major role on special teams returning kicks and punts, I say ‘running back’ because Patterson is still learning to become one.

Last year in Chicago, Patterson took on more of a running back role, to which he embraced the challenge, “I’m just trying to get better running between the tackles, just running it period.” Patterson said last year before the season, “All my career, I’ve been running it outside a lot, so that game’s natural to me. I’m just trying to learn to run it in the A and B gaps. It’s all new to me.”

Before Ito Smith was released, I figured the plan was for Davis and the former Southern Miss Golden Eagle to be the one-two punch for Arthur Smith’s offense with Patterson used more as of a gadget player. Now, it looks like Patterson will receive significant snaps at running back, and I believe there isn’t a coincidence that ex-Bears running backs coach and current Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London came to Atlanta the same offseason Patterson did.

Back around the same time as Patterson was learning how to become a better running back, London had this to say, “When we were evaluating him, we went back and watched all the touches he’s had at running back in his entire career,” London said. “You see an explosive player. You see a big player. You see a guy who can outrun guys. You see a guy who’s hard to tackle. I think a lot of the traits you see with him as a running back you see with him on kickoff return, as well. We’re pleased with where he’s at. A lot of it is new to him. He’s never been asked to do some of this stuff before.”

In a vacuum, Davis and Patterson have a complementary set of attributes. The two are more than capable one-cut backs who will thrive in Arthur Smith’s zone scheme. Patterson’s 42 touches out of the backfield in 2018 with the Patriots were a career-high, and he averaged 5.4 yards per carry. So it is clear the Falcons expect Davis to be more of the workhorse, while Patterson is sprinkled in. Both can catch the ball out of the backfield, but Patterson is more of a homerun threat.

In all, Fontenot seems to be satisfied with his short-term answer at running back, which effectively eliminates the possibility of taking one in the first couple rounds of next week’s draft. Davis is signed for two years and Patterson for one, so it would behoove the organization to select at least one running back on the third day of the draft. As is customary here at SportsTalkATL, never take a running back high in the draft, so below are a handful of mid-to-late round running backs with high ceilings that could be available in rounds four through seven.

Javian Hawkins

Arthur Smith won’t run power with a back like Javian Hawkins; instead, a wide zone concept better suits what Hawkins does well. He is a north and south runner with breakaway speed and elite lateral quickness — a big play waiting to happen. According to Pro Football Focus, the former Louisville Cardinal was also excellent in pass protection. On 231 pass-block snaps, he never allowed a single sack.

Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson has quick cuts, but he lacks the elite breakaway speed. Johnson is the prototypical “one cut and go” running back, who has great vision and decisively hits openings. With elite burst, Johnson is rarely brought down behind the line of scrimmage. And although it isn’t elite, his agility to make defenders miss is serviceable, giving him just enough wiggle to break arm tackles. Still, how he finishes runs is most impressive, topping off each play with power. I don’t think I have seen a running back fall forward as much as Johnson does.

Jaret Patterson

Patterson is my running back draft crush. Because he is listed at 5’9”, 195, it makes it very easy to stereotype him as a third-down back at the NFL level; however, Patterson has shown he has much more to his game. He has 644 rushing attempts in his career at Buffalo; 2,522 Yards AFTER Contact (3rd in CFB), 3,915 Rushing Yards (3rd), 52 TDs (2nd), and 214 1st Downs (1st). Patterson’s low center of gravity gives him elite contact balance and agility. The best part of his game is his vision and patience, finding lanes to burst through. He has also shown that he is well-rounded enough to engage in pass-protection, blocking, and the receiving game. This isn’t important, but the dude scored eight touchdowns in a single game; Mid-American Conference aside, that’s insane.

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: