What will the Falcons RB touch distribution look like?

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The Falcons just publicly named their starting center Tuesday ahead of the team’s season opener against the Saints, but there are still plenty of unknowns regarding snap allocation. Arthur Smith has been known to use multiple tight end sets regularly, so the rep designation among pass catchers will be something to monitor. The first-time head coach also leans toward using a running back by committee approach, which he did last season and will surely look to do in 2022.

Starter Cordarrelle Patterson finished with 618 yards and six touchdowns on 153 carries, adding 548 yards and five touchdowns on 52 receptions. Backup Mike Davis finished with 503 yards and one touchdown on 138 carries while adding 259 yards and another touchdown through the air on 44 receptions. Third-string running back Qadree Ollison carried 21 times for 105 yards and one touchdown and also picked up 12 yards on four receptions.

The Falcons obviously welcome Patterson back but will replace the other two’s touches. Davis finished the year with 182 total touches, and Ollison finished with 25 total touches. That’s 207 touches between the two that will be assumed by some combination of Damien Williams, Tyler Allgeier, and Avery Williams.

I won’t be shocked if Patterson records fewer than the 205 touches he received last year. The Falcons staff has been adamant about keeping the veteran fresh for the stretch run, where his numbers took a noticeable dip in 2021. That means even more burn for the others in the backfield.

Patterson will undoubtedly garner the most significant portion of the touches out of the backfield, especially considering he’s the most versatile player among the running backs. Given the Falcons less-than-ideal receiving core, I’d also expect Patterson to have fewer rushes as a traditional runner and more targets as a receiver. Regardless, the former All-Pro will be the most productive running back for the Falcons this season.

Damien Williams has been more of a backup for his entire career, but given his inferiority as a receiver compared to Patterson, he’ll likely be more of an early-down specialist. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Williams assume a significant bulk of the carries that went to Mike Davis. Then, Allgeier will take whatever is left over.

Finally, there is Avery Williams, who you can guarantee will be used in some pretty exciting packages, primarily as a receiving threat. I could see a Darren Sproles-like role for Williams, giving Arthur Smith and the Falcons offense one more weapon out of the backfield. He’s already dangerous with the ball in his hands, so as long as he can learn the position, Williams should be able to get on the field in specific personnel packages.

If I had to predict the percentage breakdown, it would be something like this: Patterson 50% of all touches, Damien Williams 20%, Allgeier 20%, and Avery Williams 10%.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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