Is Cordarrelle Patterson Arthur Smith’s New Ryan Tannehill?

Cordarrelle Patterson is a unique profile

By: Andy Davies

When Arthur Smith was hired as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, he came into the role with a great reputation for improving players after a two-season spell as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans.

One player he helped improve was quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The former first-round pick arrived after a mixed spell with the Miami Dolphins. Tannehill improved massively, earning the award for Comeback Player of the Year after his first season with the franchise despite starting the season as the backup to Marcus Mariota. When Smith was promoted to offensive coordinator, he only got better.

Smith was predicted by many to help Matt Ryan get back to his former MVP self after what he did for Tannehill. Ryan has not improved or regressed in 2021. Instead, it has been Cordarrelle Patterson that has been the biggest improver under Smith. 

Here is why Patterson is Smith’s new Tannehill. 

Overcoming Expectation

The Falcons experimented with the idea of bringing Todd Gurley back to his best in 2020 but this only lasted one season. Instead of giving Gurley a new deal, they went for the versatile Patterson in Free Agency who signed a one-year $3 million deal. 

Patterson has been seen as somewhat of a journeyman during his NFL career, with the Falcons his fifth organisation since being drafted 29th overall in 2013. For a while, he was seen as a great return specialist at best, with the occasional snaps as a running back or wide receiver.

He is a Super Bowl champion, earning a ring with the New England Patriots after their 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53. However, he had just two rushing attempts for 7 yards and two receptions for 14 yards as well as a 38-yard kick return. He did not exactly have a big role in the game, in what is the lowest scoring Super Bowl in history. 

Patterson has started eight games this season. This is tied for the most games he has started, alongside his 2016 campaign with the Minnesota Vikings. The growth of Patterson and improvement made under Smith can be seen when you compare these two seasons.

In 2016, he recorded 43 rushing yards from 7 attempts and 453 yards from 52 receptions. In 2021, he has so far recorded 489 rushing yards from 106 carries and 518 receiving yards from 44 catches. He is having the best season of his career by some distance. 

The Falcons need to make sure he is at the franchise for more than one season. Giving him a new contract should be number one on the list of priorities for this team. He has been a brilliant addition to the Falcons offense. Kyle Pitts leads the team in receiving yards this season (770), but Calvin Ridley announced midseason that he would take a break from the sport for personal reasons. With the offseason departure of Julio Jones, Patterson’s rise in form has come at the perfect time. They currently sit at 6-7 with a chance of making the playoffs for the first time since the 2017 campaign.

Smith’s Influence

The aforementioned Tannehill spoke about Smith during the 2021 offseason.

“He’s a great coach. Everything you look for in a coach and a leader and a great offensive mind.”

It is not just Tannehill that saw massive improvement under Smith. Running back Derrick Henry was seen as just a good running back during his first three seasons but saw his best two seasons alongside Smith. He recorded 2,293 rushing yards across his first three seasons in the NFL. His next two (2019 and 2020) saw him combine for 3,567 rushing yards and 33 rushing touchdowns, becoming just the eighth player in NFL history to record over 2,000 rushing yards in a single season when he had 2,027 in 2019

Smith clearly knows how to work with running backs, as can be seen with Henry. The same is happening again with Patterson. After their 21-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in November, Smith was in high praise of Patterson.

He’s a warrior. He’s a big physical presence that can do a lot for us.”

This was proved when he was listed as a back safety earlier this month.  It is a sign of a good coach when they can get the best out of a player and see their potential. Not even the greatest head coach of all time in Bill Belichick realised Patterson’s potential. Smith has taken a player seemingly on the wrong end of his career, to now being one of the best players this season. Some are even viewing him as an outside MVP candidate.

Patterson has a lot to thank Smith for. 

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