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Falcons Daily: What can we expect from Mike Davis and the running backs on Sunday? 

Atlanta Falcons running back Mike Davis #28 runs with the ball during team practice at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday September 8, 2021. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta Falcons)
Atlanta Falcons running back Mike Davis #28 runs with the ball during team practice at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday September 8, 2021. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta Falcons)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Growing up, Mike Davis was a Falcons fan through and through. He came of age in the Michael Vick era. He had the quarterback's cleats. He had Vick's jersey, too.

"Who didn't want to be Vick?" Davis said.

For the running back the Falcons acquired in free agency, Sunday's game against the Eagles is a homecoming of sorts. As a product of Stone Mountain, Ga., and Stephenson High School, Davis finally gets the chance to suit up for his home town team.


"I don't even know how to explain it," Davis said. "It's just like being home, and playing for the team you've watched growing up as a kid."

Davis said there could be pressure to perform in that homecoming. So, his goal for Sunday is to make sure he doesn't go out on the field and "over do it."

"I don't want to go out there and do something that is out of my character," he said.

There are a lot of unanswered questions about this running backs group. And every question mainly stems from the need to understand what this rotation will actually look like. What is Davis' workload? How does Cordarrelle Patterson fit in the scheme? What role will newcomer Wayne Gallman play? These are answers that will finally take shape on Sunday seeing as there was quite literally nothing to go off of in preseason games in regards to the run game. Davis and Patterson barely played. Gallman wasn't even in Atlanta yet.

Truth be told, Davis was fine with his limited preseason game reps. He said Arthur Smith got what he wanted out of the running backs in practice. It made more sense to Davis to hold back or hold out in games.

"I don't know if playing in a preseason game will get you ready for a game that is two weeks away," Davis said. "I don't know how it's going to prepare you for that. Practice is going to prepare you for that game. Studying the guys who you're going to be going against... We can probably get more work with (Smith) running the hell out of us instead of us running three plays or a drive (in a game) and then you're done."

So, all of this begs the question: What do we know about the running backs, and how will Smith deploy them?

For starters, Davis is RB1, but offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said that the offensive staff doesn't have him on a pitch count, nor do they have a certain quota for not just his carries, but the carries of the entire rushing attack, too.

"We don't approach it that way," Ragone said. "It's more about with my past with Mike or Cordarrelle. I think I have a decent feel. Coach Smith obviously has now been around these guys for months, he has a decent feel. How he calls the game is how he sees fit for those running backs to go out there and play."

In simplest terms: It seems to be a case-by-case, team-by-team basis for how Smith and Ragone concoct the run game plan. And that's exactly how Smith described it on Friday.

"It's not like, 'Hey, make sure we're at 35 carries,' or, 'Make sure we're at 20 carries before the end of the third quarter,'" Smith said. "That's not how it is... Mike will start. He'll get it. If he's doing well he'll continue to get carries. If he's not, another guy will carry the football. That's our philosophy, but it'll change from week-to-week."

Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson #84 carries the ball during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Thursday September 2, 2021. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta Falcons)

Moving the conversation away from Davis, we now know that Patterson will arguably play a much more traditional running back role than perhaps originally thought. When the Falcons brought Patterson in during the offseason and designated him a running back, there were always whispers that he would be more of a receiver than a true back. That doesn't necessarily seem to be the case anymore. Sure, Patterson will play a role in the pass game, but he's looking more and more like RB2 every day.

"He's a running back to us," Ragone said of how the staff views Patterson.

It won't be a surprise to see both Davis and Patterson on the field together from time to time in certain packages, either. In fact, mentally prepare to see Davis, Patterson, Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage all together within certain looks.

How do defenses defend this onslaught of offensive layers? Philadelphia gets the first shot at finding out. And that includes figuring out Atlanta's run game strategy, too.

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