Saturday, August 6, 2022

Falcons free agent signing threatened by unlikely source

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Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot have done everything in their power to ensure the Atlanta Falcons can show the game in progress during the 2022 NFL season. The head coach and general manager provided resources in both the free hand and the draft to improve their options in the backfield.

Smith and Fontenot’s foray into the free-agent market produced a former Super Bowl winner as a starter. He should be a lock to take many carries away from Cordarrelle Patterson, but instead this veteran’s place on the squad could be under threat from an unlikely source.

A Falcons beat writer believes a player who undergoes a tricky position change this offseason could push the established running back off the depth chart altogether.

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In his preview of the Falcons’ running back situation ahead of training camp, Josh Kendall speaks of the athlete examined Damien Williams’ chances of staying in the squad. In particular, Kendall outlined how the presence of converted defenseman Avery Williams could limit the veteran’s Atlanta career before it begins: “If Atlanta only has three jams, Williams, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, could compete for a roster spot with.” Avery Williams, sophomore pro. Avery Williams went from defensive back to running back in the offseason and was also the Falcons starting punt returner last year. If Avery Williams can prove his worth in this punt return spot this year, he will have a significant advantage over Damien Williams.”

It’s a reasonable argument, especially given the obvious advantage of keeping a player who could contribute in multiple places. However, it would be more than disappointing for the Falcons to drop Damien Williams before he makes a submission in a competitive game for the team.

The 30-year-old should have a lot of value for the Falcons after arriving on a one-year contract from the Chicago Bears in March. First, there is his championship experience.

Williams helped the Kansas City Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV after the 2019 season, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including this one play throwback from the goal line:

This was one of many clutch plays during the Chiefs’ postseason run. A recovery team like the Falcons needs players who have performed well in the biggest games and can pass that experience on to the younger, developing talent.

Running backs coach Michael Pitre confirmed these key attributes in Williams’ game back in June, according to Scott Bair, Falcons Digital’s managing editor: “He’s a leader. He is extremely hardworking. He is a good teammate who will encourage and push the group forward with the standards and expectations we are looking for.”

Pitre also highlighted Williams’ versatility and the “creative ways” Smith and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone can use him. Those avenues include utilizing Williams’ skills in the passing game, where he was productive from his peak with the Chiefs:

During his time with the Chiefs, Williams caught 53 passes and four touchdowns. Williams added another hit for the Bears last season after withdrawing from the 2020 campaign during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Williams hasn’t played much football in the past two years, but his ability to make an impact on both phases of offense is expected to take some of the pressure off Patterson. The former wide receiver carried the load on the floor for the Falcons last season, but Kendall believes it’s “too optimistic” to expect Patterson to do the same thing again.

That should open the door for Williams, but the door will slam if two younger runners make their mark during camp.

Patterson may no longer be the lead back, but any reduction in his role could be due to how successfully Avery Williams transitions to offense. The Falcons decided to switch ex-Boise State DB and bring the man back to the running game this offseason.

It’s a move based in part on Williams the Younger’s experience in that position. As Tori McElhaney detailed for the team’s official website, Williams was a star running back at JSerra Catholic High School before arriving in Boise State as a walk-on RB.

Williams has much to do to prove he can effectively return to his old position at the pro level, but he says there is an obvious potential upside in this move Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus:

Adding more speed to ground play isn’t a bad thing, and there’s more big-play ability from rookie Tyler Allgeier. The team’s fifth-round pick in this year’s draft had 1,601 yards and 28 touchdowns in his senior season at BYU.

Allgeier is a true bell cowback who can handle 25-30 carries per game. He’s already becoming a favorite with fantasy football analysts, including The Fresh Fantasy Podcast host Alex Caruso:

Atlanta’s rookies report to camp on Tuesday, July 19, a week before the veterans arrive, giving Allgeier an early chance to turn heads with the coaching staff. If he succeeds, the Falcons will have some tough decisions to make for the rest of the rotation.

Williams will be in trouble on this one, especially if his namesake’s flair as a returnee is too good to drop. Ultimately, however, the Falcons still need a dependable veteran who can handle the hectic duties, even on a backfield committee. So keeping four running backs is a possibility, especially since it would free up Patterson to be a receiver more often.

It’s a move based in part on Williams the Younger’s experience in that position. As Tori McElhaney detailed for the team’s official website, Williams was a star running back at JSerra Catholic High School before arriving in Boise State as a walk-on RB.

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