John Fricke takes an advance look at the Atlanta Falcons at the positional level. This examination is on the running back corps and the quarterbacks as training camp begins in 21 days.
Keith Armstrong – Special Teams Coordinator
Eric Sutulovich – Assistant Special Teams Coach
Camp Depth Chart
P: Matt Bosher
PK: Matt Bryant, Mike Meyer
LS: Josh Harris
PR/KR: Justin Hardy, Andre Roberts, Devin Fuller
The Falcons’ special teams units have been a mixed bag for the last two seasons. The kicking game has been excellent but the club has struggled at times in both coverage and returns.
The ageless (he turned 42 in May) Matt Bryant was at his very best last season. Bryant made the Pro Bowl after connecting on 34 of 37 field goals (he missed only once inside 50 yards) and making 56 of 57 extra points (which are now extended kicks of course).
Bryant led the NFL in scoring last season (158 points) and remains one of the top place kickers in the game.
Because of the explosive offense, the Falcons punted fewer times than any team in the league last season (48 kicks, fewer than half the 100 times the 49ers kicked it away). Matt Bosher averaged 46.7 yards per punt (four times in six seasons Bosher has finished in the top-10 in the NFL in punting average) and continues to be one of the best in the league.
The Falcons return game was up and down in 2016. Averaging 21 yards per kick return (21st in the league) but 11.4 yards per punt return (fifth best in the NFL). Seeking more explosion on returns, the Falcons moved on from Eric Weems. Justin Hardy got a taste of the position last season (three kickoff returns, 52 yards total) and was an effective return man during his college days at East Carolina.
Andre Roberts was a free agent signing out of Detroit. The seven-year vet had two punt return touchdowns for the Lions last season and returned a kick 99-yards for a score when he was with the Redskins in 2015.
Devin Fuller was among the top kick returners in college football at UCLA. Blazing speed (a 4.37-second 40 at his pro day workout) Fuller will get a shot after a preseason injury last year forced him to miss his rookie season.
With the confidence of stars at their positions in Bryant & Bosher and the reliability of longtime long snapper Josh Harris, the club’s kicking game is again solid. It will be interesting to watch the battle for the return game through camp and the preseason with the hope that the Falcons can generate more yards and even points through that phase of the game in 2017.