Cordarrelle Patterson -- now clearly a running back -- finds a role in Atlanta's offense

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- When Cordarrelle Patterson stood at the podium two weeks ago, he said he’d be open to almost anything within the Atlanta Falcons' offense.

He has been used as a returner, a receiver and, lately, a running back in his nine-year NFL career.

It's probable he'll do all three of those things in Atlanta. But unlike other stops, he showed in the Falcons' 32-6 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday he might be more of a running back than at any time before.

“We got one of the best running backs in the league in my opinion, in Mike Davis,” Patterson said a couple of weeks ago. “See the things he did last year running the ball, catching the ball. Whenever Mike need a break or anything, I’m right behind him.”

Patterson was more than behind him Sunday. Patterson lined up multiple times in the same set as Davis -- sometimes in front of him, sometimes in different spots in the formation. Nine times, Atlanta ran plays with Davis and Patterson on the field at the same time -- three runs, five passes and a penalty -- and four went for 10 yards or more.

It’s an advantage for an offense because a versatile player such as Patterson can create confusion.

“It gives us a look as, I guess, how teams will play if I’m in the backfield, if [Patterson] is in the backfield,” Davis said. “If he’s in the slot, if I’m in the slot, it just gives us information on how teams will play us.”

A week ago, before anyone saw what Patterson looked like as a back in Atlanta, offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said they looked at Patterson as a running back first. It was an interesting admission at the time considering his role as a multi-faceted offensive option in the past, but then Sunday showed how it could fit in the future.

Patterson was a running back first in Arthur Smith’s offense. He had seven carries -- all in the first half. Patterson ran to the left three times and the right four times. He ran off the right tackle on four of his runs, the left end twice and the left guard once.

An eighth attempted carry -- the only potential one in the second half for Patterson -- became a botched handoff as Patterson fell, resulting in no yards. Four of his runs went for 10 or more yards and five of his seven runs came on second down. Patterson also had two receptions during his 24 total snaps.

“A lot of people were just looking at him as a receiver,” Davis said. “But, no, Cordarrelle is a running back.”

There was reason to be skeptical. Patterson said it seems even to him he has been used in different ways every year he has been in the league. He has bounced around, too, from Minnesota to Oakland, New England, Chicago and now Atlanta.

The way the Falcons used Patterson is what makes him dangerous. He’s getting enough steps in before he gets the ball -- and the Falcons did a good enough job blocking for him up front s0 that in four of his runs, he had more than 5 yards before first contact.

If teams allow that, it could lead to big plays from Patterson, who is used to figuring out creases and accelerating through them due to his elite kick returning ability -- a skill Patterson believes has kept him in the league for nine seasons with four first-team All-Pro nods.

Being a running back, though, has been a process. When asked about the transition a couple of weeks ago, Patterson began to laugh. Then he explained why.

“Running back, I feel like, is one of the hardest things to do out there besides quarterback,” Patterson said. “You got to know a lot, protection, routes, running the ball, but I got a great coaching staff.”

It’s a move that had been teased for years -- he had 167 carries prior to this season -- but one never fully committed to. Now that might change, and based on one week there’s reason to believe it’ll be a positive for a player continuing to have alterations to his role.

Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this post. Follow Stats & Info on Twitter @ESPNStatsInfo.