3 special teams moves that the Falcons must make this offseason

Three under the radar moves that could make or break the Falcons special teams unit this offseason.

Indianapolis Colts v Atlanta Falcons
Indianapolis Colts v Atlanta Falcons / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages
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1. Acquire a proper gunner

The gunner is one of the most vital positions on a football team's special teams unit. Lining up on the ends on both punts and kickoffs, the gunner is tasked with containing the returner and directing them to an assigned lane/side of the field to prevent lengthy returns. Depending on the kickoff play call, one gunner might get a heat-seeker check, shifting contain to the next closest player to the sidelines so the gunner can go directly after the ball carrier- ignoring coverage lanes. On punts, gunners are assigned to get downfield to down a punt or tackle the returner.

In the 2023 NFL offseason, the Falcons let CB Mike Ford walk. (he later signed with the Cleveland Browns) In the 2022-2023 season, Ford was the Falcons gunner on the kicking and punting units. With Ford in 2022, on 62 punts, the Falcons only allowed 250 punt return yards. (4.03 yards per return) After letting him walk and replacing him with WR Mack Hollins in the 2023-2024 campaign, the Falcons allowed 380 yards on 75 punts. (5.07 yards per return)

The more punts that occur, the lower the average yards per return should be. Instead, that number increased by an entire yard, testifying to a noticeable dropoff in punt coverage. Despite an extra 13 punts in 2023 over the previous year, the Falcons only had one more touchback than the 2022 season. Adding a true gunner could help the Falcons force more opponents into starting inside their 20-yard line in 2024.