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Cordarrelle Patterson wins PFWA’s Co-Most Improved Player award

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Cordarrelle Patterson just capped off one of the great surprise seasons in Falcons history, and probably in NFL history. A Hall of Fame caliber kick returner, Patterson had never had over 1,000 combined yards and double digit touchdowns until he touched down in Atlanta, and at times this season he was basically the only offensive weapon the Falcons had.

For that work, he has been given the Pro Football Writers of America’s Most Improved Player award, an honor he’s sharing with interception machine and Dallas Cowboy Trevon Diggs. It’s an honor he obviously deserves.

Brought over by the Falcons this offseason on an affordable one year deal, Patterson was expected to handle kickoffs while rookie Avery Williams handled punts. I noted when he was signed that Patterson had taken on a small but useful role as a runner and receiver in Chicago and predicted he’d get some run there, but obviously he quickly blew those modest expectations out of the water.

Patterson was quickly integrated into the offense as the 1B option in the backfield to Mike Davis’s 1A, and he overtook Davis in usefulness and touches as the season went by. When the dust settled on 2021, Patterson had 618 rushing yards and 6 rushing touchdowns to go with 548 receiving yards and 5 touchdown receptions. His previous highs were 232 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground and 469 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air (back in his rookie season in 2013), so this was easily his most productive season ever. It was one full of impressive highlights, as well.

Atlanta will have to decide whether they want to bring him back this offseason, a question that’s likely to come down to cap space and contract dollars given that Patterson’s infectious personality and game-changing ability are both things Arthur Smith presumably wants to keep going in this offense. Patterson, for his part, obviously really wants to return to Atlanta.

We’ll see if the Falcons bring him back or not, which is one of the big question marks in an offseason full of them, but there’s no question that Patterson’s ability as a runner and receiver is not going to be overlooked any longer. Give him his props for this award and making an otherwise up-and-down season a hell of a lot of fun.