Cleveland Browns Scouting Report: Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have reinvented Cordarrelle Patterson as a running back at the age of 31. He's wearing No. 84 as a full-time back. (USA Today)

The Falcons have reinvented Cordarrelle Patterson as a running back at the age of 31. He's wearing No. 84 as a full-time back. (USA Today)

Cleveland Browns scouting report: Atlanta Falcons

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is an analyst on the Cleveland Browns for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.'

Browns v. Atlanta Falcons

                     Sunday, 1 p.m., in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

Record: 1-2.

Last game: Defeated Seattle Seahawks, 27-23, Sept. 25, in Seattle.

Coach: Arthur Smith, 8-12, second year.

Series record: Browns lead, 12-3.

Last meeting: Browns won, 28-16, Nov. 11, 2018, in Cleveland.

League rankings: Offense is 14th overall (fifth rushing, 26th passing), defense is 22nd overall, (15th rushing, 27th passing) and turnover differential is minus-2.

Things to watch

1. Necessity being the mother of invention, the Falcons have gone all-in on converting receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson to full-time running back. Through three games, he’s third in the NFL with 302 rushing yards and is averaging 6.2 per attempt. This is an amazing transformation. Patterson, 31, never had more than 64 rushing attempts until last season. Bill Belichick was the first coach to exploit his running skills in Patterson’s one season with the Patriots in 2018. The Falcons are Patterson’s fifth team in 10 seasons after taken in the first round in the 2013 draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Kevin Stefanski was an offensive assistant with the Vikings for Patterson’s first four seasons.

2. What helps make Patterson so effective is the RPO offense installed by Arthur Smith and run efficiently by quarterback Marcus Mariota. This is a drastic departure from the dropback passing game with Matt Ryan at quarterback last year. Smith was assistant tight ends coach with Tennessee when the Titans drafted Mariota No. 2 overall in 2015. Smith has returned Mariota closer to the style he showcased in winning the Heisman Trophy with Oregon. Mariota averaged 48 runs from scrimmage in five seasons as Titans quarterback. He has 25 already this year and is the team’s second-leading rusher with 92 yards and two touchdowns.

3. When Mariota throws, he has two awesome targets in second-year tight end Kyle Pitts and rookie receiver Drake London. Pitts, 6-6 and 247 pounds, became only the second rookie tight end in history to surpass 1,000 yards and averaged 15.1 yards per catch. London, 6-4 and 219, was the first receiver off the board in 2022, taken eighth overall. He’s off to a fast start with 16 receptions for 214 yards and two touchdowns.

4. The Falcons’ defense is in transition. Coordinator Dean Pees moved to a four-man front against Seattle to defend the run. The Falcons have a quality lineman in two-time Pro Bowl tackle Grady Jarrett and a pair of good cornerbacks in veteran Casey Hayward and 2020 first-round pick A.J. Terrell. But there are a lot of holes on this side of the ball.

Did you know … ?

1. Nobody was more shocked that Deshaun Watson ended up in Cleveland than Falcons owner Arthur Blank. He thought the Falcons were frontrunners to land the former Houston Texans quarterback. So much so that they secretly allowed Matt Ryan, their franchise quarterback for 14 seasons, to pursue other opportunities. Blank felt Watson would want to play for his hometown Falcons, for whom he served as a ball boy as a kid and whose family was the recipient of a house built through the Warrick Dunn Habitat for Humanity charity. When Watson jumped to accept the Browns’ fully-guaranteed $230 million contract, the Falcons were left without a quarterback because Ryan was not of the mind to come back, and the Falcons granted his wish to be traded to the Colts. The Falcons, who were criticized for not taking Justin Fields of Ohio State with the No. 4 pick in the 2021 draft, signed Mariota in free agency and drafted Desmond Ridder in the second round to be their developmental quarterback of the future. According to Falcons sources, the pursuit of Watson was all Blank’s idea. Oh, those pesky owners.

2. Despite his reincarnation as a running back, Cordarrelle Patterson has his sights on owning the all-time record for kickoff return touchdowns. Currently he is tied with Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington with eight. He wants the undisputed record. The problem is that no teams are kicking to him. The Falcons lead the league with 17 touchbacks on 19 kickoffs as the receiving team.

3. Tight end Kyle Pitts had two major milestones as a rookie in 2021. He surpassed Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez and future Hall of Famer Julio Jones for most receiving yards by a rookie in Falcons history.

4. Younghoe Koo deserves mention in the circle of the sport’s best active kickers. In 2020, Koo made 37 of 39 field goals, including 8 of 8 from 50 and more, and tied for the league lead with 144 points. In 2021, Koo made 27 of 29 field goals and his three game-winners fell one short of the NFL season record.

5. Arthur Smith is the son of FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith.

Small world: Receiver KhaDarel Hodge played for the Browns in 2019-20 … Offensive lineman Colby Gossett played for them in 2019 … Offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford played for the Browns in 2005 … Defensive coordinator Dean Pees was Kent State head coach from 1998-2003 … Offensive coordinator Dave Ragone is a native of Middleburgh Heights and played at St. Ignatius HS … Football analyst Patrick Kramer was a receivers coach at John Carroll University.