Falcons’ Cordarrelle Patterson a veteran example of positionless offense

FLOWERY BRANCH — On an offense full of Swiss Army knives, Cordarrelle Patterson stands out.

The Falcons value versatility, lumping their running backs, wide receivers and tight ends into one group they dub “offensive weapons.” They’ve been moving toward this since 2021, but this season is meant to be the year that versatility is fully unleashed, using players such as Drake London, Kyle Pitts, Mack Hollins and prized rookie Bijan Robinson in as many different spots as possible.

It’s something that hasn’t fully been done before, with one exception — Patterson has been doing this for years.

“We’ve just got a lot of guys with different skill sets,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “There’s a lot of logistics involved. … CP’s played a lot of jobs, so he’s been familiar with it.”

Patterson was drafted by the Vikings as a wide receiver in 2013, but took occasional handoffs. As a rookie, he carried 12 times for 158 yards, and in his second season, he had 10 rushes for 117 yards. He was known primarily as a kickoff returner, earning four All-Pro First Team mentions.

When he signed with the Falcons in 2021, he was used as a running back, carrying 153 times in 2021 and 144 times last year. He was still a top target as a receiver, tying a career-high in receptions in 2021, but his versatility was used in different ways.

So far in training camp, he’s taking most snaps in the backfield. The Falcons are expected to use him in many different ways, like the rest of the offense.

He’s also expected to help the other “offensive weapons” in learning their roles. The offense isn’t entirely new, as it’s built on concepts that have been in place since Smith became head coach. London was drafted in 2022, and Robinson and Hollins are newcomers this season, but Patterson has been around since the beginning.

“As we’ve evolved, they’re used to the way we operate, which helps,” Smith said of Patterson, Pitts and London. “It can help some of the young guys. Even the veterans that came here that haven’t done something like this. Every offense I’ve been around has been different. It helps when you have some familiarity with guys that been productive that they can trust.”

Patterson likes what he’s seen out of the offense through the first weeks of training camp.

“It kind of feels different, but it’s not different,” Patterson said. “It’s the same offense, kind of the same people around here, just added a few pieces. It just feels good to be out here and get ready for the season.”

He sees that versatility is the direction in which football is going, and he loves it.

“If you look on the offense, you’ve got a lot of guys that play a lot of different positions,” Patterson said. “You can line Kyle up at running back, probably. It’s positionless. That’s what the league is going into now. A lot of skill guys. The more you could do on that football field, (the better).”

Patterson’s a veteran now. He still has that talent, as shown by his 103-yard return touchdown against the Bears in Week 11, but he’s not quite the electrifying rookie he was in 2013. Regardless, he’s still an important piece for the Falcons — in whatever position he plays.

“I love coaching CP,” Smith said. “He’s a big part of our team.”