Hoping for special season from the Atlanta Falcons special teams
The Atlanta Falcons special teams has been a major issue over the last several years and if not for former kicker, and fan favorite, Matt Bryant, they would have been a complete disaster.
As Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was doing his usual post season evaluations, he decided to make a change in all three phases of his football team. In addition to replacing both Steve Sarkisian and Marquand Manuel, Keith Armstrong, who has been the Falcons special teams coordinator for a decade, was also let go.
Insert Redskins special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica. Not only did Kotwica come highly recommended having done an excellent job of turning around the Redskins special teams, but he is also a former United States Military Academy football letterman and decorated officer.
This hire was very calculated by Quinn. Not only did he want to change the special teams for the Falcons, but he also brought in a military man to help cement the culture that he has been trying to mold since he was hired in 2015.
Replacing the special teams coordinator was not the only change that Quinn made this off season on special teams. The team also made the difficult decision to release former kicker Matt Bryant, who is among the most automatic kickers in the NFL history. The franchise decided to go with a younger cheaper option in Giorgio Tavecchio, who impressed the Falcons enough to make the move when he filled in for Bryant during the 2018 season.
However, the Falcons still have questions to answer on special teams. The first, is who will win the starting job as the kick returner? The Falcons drafted Marcus Green out of Louisiana-Monroe because of his return abilities. As a junior, Green was among the best in the country as a kick returner scoring four touchdowns via kick return.
Running back Kenjon Barner is also going to get a chance to win the starting job as a kick returner. There is a lot of pressure on Barner as winning this job will most likely be the difference between being on the active roster or being unemployed.
Justin Hardy was a surprise on the depth chart that was released earlier this week as he had been overtaken by Russell Gage as Julio Jones backup, but he will have the first crack as the team’s punt returner. I am sure Green will also get multiple chances to audition for this spot as well.
Josh Harris should be back for his eighth season as the Falcons long snapper and Matt Bosher will be back for his ninth. There is some pressure on Bosher to be better than he has been the last couple seasons.
While Bosher is among the league best in regards to gross average punt, he is among the bottom half of the league in net punting average. A lot of that falls on Bosher’s shoulders for his lack of hang time and ability to put the ball where he needs to put it.
Having players like Russell Gage and Duke Riley on coverage teams again should help those teams be even better in year five of Dan Quinn.
Special teams is one of those areas no one thinks about until something goes terribly wrong. Thankfully, Dan Quinn has put a lot of thought and effort into making this third phase of football impactful. We will get a chance to see just how impactful starting Thursday night in Canton.