The Falcons just publicly named their starting center Tuesday ahead of the team’s season opener against the Saints, but there are still a lot of unknowns about who the snaps will be awarded. Arthur Smith is known to use multiple sets of tight ends regularly, so the rep designation among pass catchers will be something to watch. The first-time head coach is also leaning towards using a committee running back approach, something 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 a 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 a touchdown and also had 12 yards on four receptions.
The Falcons obviously welcome the return of Patterson but will replace the touches of the other two. Davis finished the year with 182 total touches and Ollison finished with 25 total touches. It’s 207 touches between the two that will be assumed by a combination of Damien Williams, Tyler Allgeier and Avery Williams.
I wouldn’t be shocked if Patterson registers less than the 205 touches he received last year. The Falcons staff have been adamant about keeping the veteran fresh for the stretch run, where his numbers have dropped noticeably in 2021. That means even more burn for others in the backfield.
Patterson will undoubtedly collect most of the touches out of the backfield, especially since he is the most versatile player among running backs. Given that the Falcons’ receiving core is less than ideal, I would also expect Patterson to have fewer rushes as a traditional runner and more targets as a receiver. Either way, the former All-Pro will be the Falcons’ most productive running back this season.
Damien Williams has been more of a back-up his entire career, but given his inferiority as a receiver to Patterson, he’s likely to be more of a start-up specialist. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Williams take on a big chunk of the runs that went to Mike Davis. Then Allgeier will take whatever is left.
Finally, there’s Avery Williams, who you can guarantee will be used in some pretty exciting packages, mostly as a receiving threat. I could see a Darren Sproles 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 enter the pitch with specific personnel packages.
If I had to predict the percentage breakdown it would be something like this: Patterson 50% of all hits, Damien Williams 20%, Allgeier 20% and Avery Williams 10%.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire