Falcons will ramp up rushing attack in training camp

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons want running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson ready for more Swiss Army knife duties when they open training camp in late July.

Patterson, entering his 10th NFL season, reported for duty and took his physical, but the team decided to hold him out of the two-day mandatory minicamp, coach Arthur Smith said Tuesday before practice.

“He’s working on a (veteran) offseason program to build him up,” Smith said. “He’s here. He wanted to work. Myself and our performance staff, we have a different plan for Cordarrelle. I’m not going to crank him up for two days. We need him ready to go on July 26.”

Patterson was the Falcons’ most dynamic weapon last season. He rushed 153 times for 618 yards (4.0 per carry) and six touchdowns. He also caught 52 of 69 targets for 548 yards and five touchdowns. In total, Patterson had 205 touches for 1,166 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“He has an offseason program,” Smith said of Patterson missing this week’s minicamp sessions. “It works well for him in Charlotte. He’s a real pro. He communicates all the time. I didn’t think it was necessary with where he’s at and where we need him to play a 17-game season. Again, it’s not one-size fits all. We’re trying to be smart.”

Patterson signed a two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Falcons on March 22. He received a $5 million signing bonus. After losing linebacker Foye Oluokun (Jaguars), wide receiver Russell Gage (Bucs) and long snapper Josh Harris (Chargers), the Falcons retained Patterson, who’ll remain a key cog in the offense.

The Falcons went into the 2021 season with plans to have Mike Davis as the lead running back in a committee set-up. The bulk of the carries eventually went to Patterson. The Falcons finished 31st in the NFL in rushing, at 85.4 yards per game.

There was a three-game streak when the Falcons rushed for more than 100 yards against Jacksonville (149) on Nov. 28, Tampa Bay (121) on Dec. 5 and Carolina (128) on Dec. 12. Patterson rushed for 108, 78 and 58 yards to lead the Falcons in rushing in those games.

Smith contends the rushing game was slowed over the final four games because the team got into low-possession games, where they were working the clock against San Francisco, Detroit, Buffalo and New Orleans.

Patterson again will be a part of the rushing attack.

“Cordarrelle’s role will evolve again this year,” Smith said Monday on SiriusXM NFL radio. “He’s certainly one of the more consistent (backs in the) run game. ... It will be a little more by committee. We’ll see who emerges, but there will be a huge role for Cordarrelle. ... He’s going to take a unique role in this offense.”

The Falcons coaching staff cracked the code on how to use Patterson, who was a first-round draft pick as a wide receiver and one of the game’s top kickoff returners and four-time All-Pro. Patterson had career highs in carries (153), rushing yards (618) and receiving yards (548). He tied his career high in catches with 52.

The Falcons did not re-sign Davis but added Damien Williams in free agency.

Williams, 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds, played last season with the Bears after opting out of the 2020 season. He mostly has been a backup in the NFL over 97 games, making only 15 starts.

He has played with the Dolphins (2014-17), Chiefs (2018-19) and Bears (2021). He has rushed for 1,395 yards and 14 touchdowns and has caught 154 passes for 1,209 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“I’m a vet,” Williams said Tuesday. “I’ve been doing this for a little while, and also I have been in position to start and play a lot of football. I know what it takes to get those extra yards, those hard yards.”

Williams believes the Falcons have a chance to have a potent rushing attack.

“The backs that we have in our room are amazing,” Williams said. “We can all do it all. I feel like me being a vet, CP being a vet, having a Q (Qadree Ollison) come up as well. I feel like it’s a crazy backfield.”

Williams is fine with working in a committee approach.

“Most definitely,” Williams said.

He’s been impressed with rookie running Tyler Allgeier, who played at Brigham Young.

“He looks good,” Williams said. “When I was in Chicago, we had Khalil Herbert come in as a rookie (in 2021). I kind of see similarities as far as patience and wanting to learn the game even more. He’s a smart kid. He knows the game. I love his feet when he runs the ball. Very patient.”

Williams will reunite with Falcons running backs coach Mike Pitre, who also was with the Bears last year.

“I know what my role has always been,” Williams said. “Just coming into somebody’s organization and help them get to a championship.”

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