One of the most surprising announcements of last Sunday came when Tyler Allgeier was listed as inactive before the Falcons first game of 2022 began. It was perhaps an initial shock for most, followed by a prompt realization that - OK - this did make sense in regards to game day roster construction.
The Falcons knew going into Week 1 that Cordarrelle Patterson and Damien Williams would be their go-to's in the run game. That was well documented and decided. The Falcons also knew Avery Williams would be their punt returner. Now a running back on the roster, it would be necessary to carry him on game day because of his role on special teams. That meant Allgeier would be the odd man out.
Arthur Smith said because of the packages the Falcons knew the Saints would deploy on Sunday, they felt they needed numbers elsewhere. Atlanta wanted to go heavier across the defensive interior, Smith said. He also added they wanted to carry more tight ends. So, Feleipe Franks was active. As was Jared Bernhardt. Neither Franks or Bernhardt took a snap on Sunday. Smith said that's a credit to Kyle Pitts and Drake London.
"Kyle ended up playing a significant number of snaps. Drake played more snaps, and that's a credit to Drake. The guy missed a couple of weeks, practiced pretty well and he was rolling, so we kept him in there," Smith explained. "Some other guys that we dressed didn't play as much as we anticipated and it took a little bit from the back."
Consider Allgeier in "the back" of this scenario.
On Sunday, we saw very early on why it's so important that Allgeier be active.
In the first quarter of the Falcons loss to the Saints, Damien Williams injured his rib. He immediately went to the locker room, and though he tried to return to the game in the fourth quarter the rib injury still nagged. Williams didn't participate in practice this week because of it, and Smith announced after Friday's practice that Williams was to be ruled out of Sunday's game in Los Angeles.
So, yes, it's very likely we'll see Allgeier because of this. But the argument could be made that regardless of what Williams' status is, Allgeier should be active more often than not simply because of the situation the Falcons saw themselves in last Sunday. Now, all was not lost when Williams went to the locker room, because Patterson ended up having a career day a decade into said career.
By the time the final second ticked off the clock, Patterson had carried the ball 22 times for 120 yards. He averaged 5.5 yards a carry and scored a touchdown. It was - without question - one of the most impressive individual performances of the day.
"CP ran really well," Smith said. "He ran - I think - more physically than I've ever seen him, the way he finished runs."
One should point out, though, that this was possibly because Patterson and the Falcons have worked very hard to make sure he was as fresh as he could be heading into Week 1. Patterson didn't participate in Atlanta's OTAs back in June. And then, you could probably count on one hand how many times you actively saw Patterson take a snap in the Falcons preseason game this August. That was - of course - all by design. It meant that Patterson could carry the ball 22 times on Sunday.
But should that be expectation moving forward? Probably not.
"He's not a superhuman and can touch the ball 65 times," Smith said, "although I'm sure he'd tell you he'd want to. So, when you know you're going to be short a back here, you may have to adapt, or there may be something you have to take off in the passing game because now he becomes the primary guy."
When asked about the number of carries Patterson should realistically take, offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said there's no formula.
"No trade secrets or anything – we're not going in saying, 'He only gets eight carries, and he gets six,'" Ragone explained. "At the end of the day, you know, we go in with the idea of whoever's in the game regardless ... we have a standard in which we want to play and if it's your opportunity, you get a chance to do it, let's roll."
When Smith ruled Williams out for Sunday's game after practice on Friday, it opened the door for Allgeier to make his league debut. When asked, Smith said they're pleased with the work Allgeier has continued to put in over the last two weeks, even inactive.
While Allgeier's debut may come a week later than anyone expected, having fresh legs behind Patterson should only help, particularly when considering Patterson's work load last Sunday.
The expectation should be that Allgeier is seen quite a bit against the Rams. The plan isn't likely that Allgeier will outshine Patterson, but he should be able to help in rotation to add a cushion the Falcons didn't have against the Saints.
Our favorite snaps as the team puts in the work at Flowery Branch to prepare for this week's game against the LA Rams, presented by Gatorade.