There's a lot of new in the Falcons running back room. Cordarrelle Patterson's back. Keith Smith's the primary fullback. Qadree Ollison and Caleb Huntley are still around, pushing for roster spots.
Everything else, however, looks different than a year ago. Damien Williams signed a one-year deal with the club. The Falcons drafted Tyler Allgeier in the fifth round. Avery Williams came on over from the cornerback room.
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Even position coach Michael Pitre is new to the team, joining Arthur Smith's staff from Chicago.
The Falcons are trying to establish a tough, physical run game that can produce yards after contact and options in the passing game with some versatile talents who will get a crack in the lineup.
That's why we caught up with Pitre during the offseason program, to get his thoughts on some of the guys who will carry the rock this upcoming season.
The veterans and rookies were out on the field during Minicamps this week putting in some extra work and interacting with fans before the summer break.
On running Tyler Allgeier's pro day, and Pitre's pre-draft evaluation of him
His tape speaks for itself. He's a tough, physical guy, a downhill runner who plays behind his pads. But the thing I thought was interesting about his pro day was having him do some drills he may not have been as comfortable with and seeing how he worked and prepared himself to do those drills. He asked good questions about them. It showed a guy who was serious about his craft. You can tell it's important to him. He wants to do a really good job, and that's everything we've seen since he has been here. He's locked in. He has done a really good job learning the system and how to be a pro. For him, how he transitions once things become real (when pads go on and then when he faces live tackling) will determine how he does.
On Damien Williams
He has that experience. There aren't a lot of looks or things you can show him that he hasn't experienced during his time in the league. He's a leader. He's extremely hard-working. He's a good teammate who is going to encourage and push the group with standards and expectations that we're looking for. He's a guy who loves to compete. He's a versatile talent with a skill set that will allow Arthur Smith and Dave Ragone to use him in creative ways. He's a weapon that can keep teams off balance.
What he wants to see from RBs
Just compete and improve. That's what we want to do first and foremost. That's what we want to do internally every day in practice. We also want to compete against the defense. And we want to see continual improvement. If we do those things, we're going to be ready to go when the season starts.
On Qadree Ollison
He's really smart. You can tell he has been around the league for a few years. He understands protection really well. He understands this offense really well. He's going to compete within the room to etch out a role for himself and where he's going to fit into this offseason.
On Avery Williams' transition to running back
"He's an extremely hard worker. I don't know you'll find anyone who puts more into the scheme and knowing what all 11 guys are doing. He's coachable, wanting to know how to do it better instead of asking if it was good enough. His transition has been going pretty well."
On the toughest part of Williams' position switch
Once it becomes real, the pass protection aspect. The physicality of it. With his return-game experience, he shows natural vision. You're not overly worried or concerned about that. I think, for any running back transitioning to the position, the pass protection piece is always the hardest and most difficult.
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