Ten Questions for the Atlanta Falcons: How Do They Utilize Their Running Backs?

NFLPA Rookie Premiere Portrait Session
NFLPA Rookie Premiere Portrait Session / Michael Owens/GettyImages

As we get closer to the start of the 2023 NFL Season, we’re running through ten questions that’ll affect the Atlanta Falcons. We previously looked at how the wide receiver position could potentially make or break their season and then took a deep dive into their offensive line. Today we’ll focus on how the team might utilize Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson this year.

After the Atlanta Falcons drafted Bijan Robinson in April, it seemed like most of the remarks focused on the huge impact he’d be expected to make in Arthur Smith’s offense. One of the things most analysts seemed to leave out was the fact that Atlanta still has Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson on their roster.

Recent history suggests that Smith prefers to smash the ball with one back consistently, as Derrick Henry had over 300 carries during both seasons when Smith was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. Although he didn’t have the same type of workhorse during his two seasons as head coach in Atlanta, the Falcons still ranked first overall in rushing attempts and third in yards last season.

The first question will likely focus on how they utilize Robinson during his rookie year. It wouldn’t shock people if he quickly was named the starting running back and got close to 250-275 carries during the upcoming season. Adding in his receiving skills and Robinson could quickly approach over 300 touches by the end of the year.

His speed and physicality should allow Smith to run his preferred offense while setting up favorable situations for rising quarterback Desmond Ridder. It is likely that Robinson will end up totaling at least 1,500 total yards this year and could potentially get closer to 2,000 if the defense can hold up their end of the bargain.

Allgeier is now in an interesting situation where he went from a surprise standout last year to now figuring out his role within the Falcons’ offense. He totaled nearly 1,200 yards last season and added four touchdowns. He seems too good to simply be a spell back for the team but also has questions to address about his receiving ability after only totaling 16 receptions last year.

Coach Smith might end up utilizing Allgeier alongside Robinson, frequently motioning both backs to get them out in space, especially if Ridder struggles to connect with his receiving corps in the beginning of the season. It seems unlikely that Allgeier will reach over 1,000 rushing yards again this season, but I think it’s fair for the Falcons to utilize him enough to reach 750-800 yards with a few more touchdowns sprinkled in.

Cordarrelle Patterson seems to be the odd man out in the new Atlanta offense, and it’s hard to predict what his role will actually be this year. He was previously used as a nice change-of-pace runner, but the Falcons will already have that with Allgeier as the new number two. Their best bet may be running the two-back formation mentioned above and subbing in Patterson as either a receiving threat out of the backfield or a decoy to spread out the defense further.

There’s also a chance that Patterson goes back to special teams and is used as more of a specialty option or a “break-in-case-of-emergency” choice if Robinson or Allgeier struggles with injuries throughout the long NFL season. Either way, having a leader like Patterson around is helpful both for the locker room and for the team’s new star running back.

As the Atlanta Falcons attempt to end their playoff drought, having too many solid running backs is a good problem to have. The team can run Arthur Smith’s offense throughout the entire season and aim to both protect Desmond Ridder while also helping him grow as a starting quarterback. Their style may screw up some fantasy football matchups, but fans will be hoping their three-headed monster can take the team to the next level.