The Atlanta Falcons were given the first truly bad news of the off-season with Avery Williams requiring surgery and likely missing the entire 2023 season. While it isn't one of Atlanta's star players this is a far more impactful injury than you might consider at first glance.
The obvious is the fact that Williams has turned into a great punt returner and had become the go-to option for returning punts and sharing kick return duties with Patterson. This is a particular skill set that can flip games and Williams has proven to be reliable not only at creating positive returns but having steady hands protecting the football.
Aside from the kick return issues that this creates Atlanta should now be expected to have a more interesting battle at running back. With Huntley coming off of a serious injury and his status in question and Williams done for the year who is Atlanta's fourth option?
In Arthur Smith's system having a fourth back on the roster wouldn't be at all surprising considering Patterson's ability to play as a utility player and the ability Bijan Robinson has as a receiver out of the backfield.
Atlanta will often have two of their three running backs on the field and having a reliable fourth option in case of injury or for a change of pace is likely. Even with Patterson, Huntley, and Allgeier healthy last season Atlanta gave Williams a chance to create occasional plays.
With this in mind, it would be surprising to see Atlanta utilize Patterson as the simple answer to return kicks and punts. Looking to keep the veteran healthy there will likely be competition for the role with Patterson still returning kicks at times but primarily serving as the utility option he was in the 2021 season.
Losing Avery Williams is a rough blow not one detrimental to the Atlanta season but one that hurts the stability and depth of what still is a good roster. This adds another two positions to watch once the summer ends and camp and pre-season return.