Last year when Cordarrelle Patterson joined the Falcons, it was fair to assume his biggest impact would come on special teams. That’s because Patterson is one of the greatest kick returners in NFL history, just one yard away from 11th in terms of yards and tied for the top spot all-time in terms of kick return touchdowns.
Instead, as we all know, Patterson became arguably the team’s most dangerous weapon on offense and had a true breakout season at age 30, turning 200 or so touches into nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. When the Falcons re-signed him this offseason, they were clearly envisioning him as a dangerous weapon once again, albeit one with fewer touches owing to personnel additions.
What we didn’t know is if he would return to kickoffs. After Week 8, Patterson rarely had the opportunity to do so as the Falcons focused on keeping him fresh for the offense, with Avery Williams assuming control of both kickoffs and punt returns.
With the Falcons all heading to training camp Tuesday, we got some interesting news: Patterson himself said he plans to return kicks again in 2022.
Falcons’ Cordarrelle Patterson said he plans to return kicks this year — because he has a record to break.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) July 26, 2022
If he gets another KR TD (his ninth, the all-time record) he would stop returning kicks voluntarily if they wanted him to.
Right now he’s tied with eight.
If the coaching staff is in agreement—and chances are they’ll look to give one of the great returners in league history the opportunity if he wants it—Patterson will be a factor on special teams once again and will hope to break his three-way tie with Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington, who both wrapped up their careers after the 2014 season. That would presumably relegate newly minted running back Avery Williams to punt returns only, at least until Patterson breaks his record.
While I thought Williams did a nice job as a returner last year and should handle both duties over the long haul for Atlanta, it’s hard to quibble with Patterson returning to what he’s done best in his NFL career. He was still solid on returns last year and the Falcons saw his production dip down the stretch after a season of heavier workloads on offense, so a drawdown in terms of his snap count caused by the team adding the likes of Drake London, Tyler Allgeier, Damien Williams, and others should free him up for a handful of returns per game.
Obviously, we’re rooting for him to break the record, both to cement his status as one of the greatest ever to do it and because he’d do so as a Falcon, which is a great historic footnote. Let’s see if Patterson’s back there returning kicks Week 1, but chances are if he’s talking about it’s probably happening.