What will Falcons loaded running back rotation look like?

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Arthur Smith loves his running backs. He’s gone from Derrick Henry, a rushing title holder, in Tennessee to the best running back room in football with the Falcons.

Coming into the offseason, it was clear what the 2023 group would look like, spearheaded by Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson. The former broke the franchise’s rookie rushing record en route to establishing himself among the best pure runners in football. Allgeier probably should’ve garnered more consideration for the Rookie of the Year award, but I digress.

Patterson had a down year compared to the 2021 campaign, in which he set career marks in rushing and receiving yards as well as touchdowns, but he was still quite productive when on the field. The Falcons also used him in more of a traditional running back role compared to his first year in Atlanta, so that has to be considered when talking about his season.

Regardless, the pair were among the best running back duos in football, but the Falcons went out and made Bijan Robinson the highest-drafted running back since the Giants took Saquon Barkley second overall in 2018. Given the current state of the position in Atlanta and its standing around the league, the move was a head-scratcher.

So, with three horses in what is the most juiced running back room in the NFL, what will the rotation look like?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, all three will have a role in the offense. Tyler Allgeier’s is straightforward. Though he’s capable of providing value in the passing game, he’s not going to be lining up anywhere other than the backfield very often. He’ll assume a more traditional running back role and be the Falcons bowling ball on short yardage and goal line opportunities. Though he’s capable of excelling in any scheme, gap and power are probably better suited for his running style.

But that’s where the simplicity ends. Bijan Robinson and Cordarrelle Patterson are better described as offensive weapons instead of running backs. They are interchangeable throughout the offense; they’ll be used out of the backfield, in motion, in the slot, on the boundary, and everywhere in between.

The pair will be able to threaten defenses in the run and pass game with or without the ball in their hands. As I said before, Patterson was used in a more traditional role in 2022, taking a vast majority of his snaps as a running back. Expect him to be used closer to the 2021 version, splitting snaps as a running back and everywhere else more evenly.

Cordarrelle Patterson could be in for another career year reverting back to that role. The versatility he provides will be invaluable for the Falcons and Arthur Smith, who knows exactly what he has in CP.

“CP has done a lot of jobs.,” Smith said. “You saw that his role in 2021 was a very different story than what he did in 2022. I don’t want to get too specific in it – that will play itself out – but I’m excited CP is still here. He looks good. It’s a good problem to have with guys who are versatile.

“Out of some necessity, last year he was used more traditionally as a running back. Those are good problems to have. … It gives us a lot of flexibility. … CP is certainly a valuable person to this program.”

What’s even crazier is Bijan Robinson is equally, if not more, versatile. He’s a better pure runner than Patterson and might actually be a better route runner. Falcons fans can expect him to be used in a completely revolutionary role — think some combination of Deebo Samuel, Cordarrelle Patterson, Christian McCaffrey, and Alvin Kamara‘s impacts.

Robinson will certainly get the most touches out of the three but don’t expect it to be a big difference. Distributing touches will keep all three healthy and the Falcons’ offense at its strongest. A lot of snaps will come with two of the three on the field simultaneously, given the positional versatility of Patterson and Robinson.

Photographer: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

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