“That (competition) is wide open,” Pitre said. “That’s the part that’s fun about it, is those guys know every day they walk in the building, there’s going to be competition. That natural competition, the cream is going to rise to the top, and that’s going to make everyone in the room better.”
While the unit’s most experienced backs, Patterson and offseason addition Damien Williams, have not been present at voluntary OTA practices, the running back group has embraced the competition.
Jeremy McNichols, another recent acquisition, who played for Falcons coach Arthur Smith in Tennessee, appreciates Pitre’s detail-oriented approach and consistency. Now on his fifth team, McNichols knows how essential competition can be to a successful rushing attack.
“Whatever we do, it’s competition,” McNichols said. “We’re competing against ourselves, we’re competing against the running backs, we’re competing against the defense and the other guys in the league. You’re in the National Football League. You need that competitive mindset on and off the field.”
Pitre’s task will be igniting a run game that accounted for only 85.4 rushing yards per game last season, worst in the NFC. Patterson, who led the team with 618 rushing yards and six touchdowns, returns on a two-year deal, and the Falcons added Damien Williams, Allgeier and McNichols to the mix this offseason and converted Avery Williams to running back. Through the offseason, Pitre wants the group to get comfortable with the offense’s language and fundamentals rather than looking ahead to the season.
“Obviously, (Smith) has a vision for what our offense is going to be, but more importantly right now, it’s focusing on the details of learning the offense, learning the nuances,” Pitre said. “As it continues to come to fruition, we’ll have more specifics on how we want to do things.”
“That (competition) is wide open. That's the part that's fun about it, is those guys know every day they walk in the building, there's going to be competition."
- Falcons running backs coach Michael Pitre
Before spending the 2021 season with the Bears, Pitre made a name for himself at the college level, culminating with a standout three-year run coaching running backs with Oregon State. He also interned with the New England Patriots’ scouting department in 2009 and worked with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017 through the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship.
While Pitre has seen growth in his backs from the first day of camp through the end of voluntary OTA practices, he’s also had the opportunity to learn from established coaches ahead of his second season at the NFL level.
“It’s been awesome, just being here with the staff,” Pitre said. “Just seeing how these guys interact with these guys as a young coach, that’s awesome because that helps me to fine-tune my craft as a coach and ultimately help me continue to push myself toward the goals I have.”