Cordarrelle Patterson is already playing running back and kick returner for the Atlanta Falcons. He has room for one more position, though, with the 30-year-old named among the safeties on the latest depth chart for Week 13.
Patterson appears behind Erik Harris and Jaylinn Hawkins, ahead of Sunday’s home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, per Abby Patrick of the team’s official website. The move appears strange, but it’s in keeping with a desire Patterson expressed earlier this season to play defense. That desire is apparently shared by his coaches.
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Patterson Wants an Interception
Patterson has made no secret of his willingness to line up on defense. Earlier in November, he told reporters he wants to “catch an interception,” during an interview relayed on the team’s official YouTube channel:
The Falcons’ coaching staff must have been listening because Patterson has since seen action on the other side of the ball. Head coach Arthur Smith confirmed Patterson “got his defensive snap” during Week 12’s 21-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, per Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith. The head coach indicated he “may put him on the depth chart next week at free safety,” according to the same source.
Smith has followed through on his promise. Now it will be up to Atlanta’s defensive staff to judge if there’s any merit to letting Patterson enjoy some serious playing time as a defensive back. Fortunately, there’s historical precedent for this kind of two-way duty.
Dean Pees Ready To Include Patterson on Defense
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees is already amenable to the idea of Patterson playing on his unit. Pees has indicated there is a defensive package involving Patterson lining up at safety, according to Matt Urben of Falcons Wire.
There’s a chance this look is unveiled more often this season, especially considering Pees’ background. The 72-year-old spent six seasons as an assistant with the New England Patriots during the 2000s. It’s why players like former Pats safety Duron Harmon is a starter in Atlanta.
During his time with the Patriots, Pees saw how a star from the offense can help out on defense. Specifically, he was present when wide receiver and return ace Troy Brown played defensive back during the ’04 season. Brown even helped himself to three interceptions and recovered a pair of fumbles during the campaign. So there’s still hope for Patterson’s dream of getting his hands on a pick.
His switch would be slightly different to Brown’s though. Patterson has already converted from wide receiver into a dynamic, featured running back. He tops the Falcons rushing charts with 411 yards, four touchdowns and a 4.4-yard per carry average. Patterson has played his way into usurping two 2021 free-agent signings, Mike Davis and Wayne Gallman, as the undisputed leader of Atlanta’s backfield.
There isn’t a rich recent history of running backs playing on defense, but Patterson could still find a niche at safety. He’s a phenomenal all-round athlete, so his leaping ability, trusted hands and returner’s skills once he gets the ball would be assets in multiple-defensive back schemes.
Pees may consider Week 13 the ideal moment to unveil the wrinkle as a way to try and confuse Bucs’ quarterback Tom Brady, who has seen most things during nearly 22 years in the pros.