Greetings! As the 2013 NFL season approaches, it is time to take a deeper look at what to expect from the Atlanta Falcons. In the fourth of a nine-part preview, it’s time to pick apart the “forgotten” unit on every NFL team in the special teams. Let’s get it going.
To be honest, this is the only unit of the three with any real controversy and/or buzz. The Falcons selected Robert Alford in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, and everyone assumed that much of his value would be derived from an explosive reputation in return game. However, Alford is nowhere to be found on the current depth chart, and the 2012 starters are still in their roles.
Backup running back Jacquizz Rodgers gets the nod as the primary kick-off returner, and he was effective in the role last year. I don’t think Rodgers has the top-end speed that most associate with kick-off guys, but he did rattle off a 77-yarder last season, and Rodgers finished 11th in the NFL with 25.7 yards per return.
In the punt game, the always-entertaining Dominique Franks is the penciled-in starter. Frankly, he’s not exciting at all in the role, finishing in the bottom third of the league in yardage, and we’ll likely see some of Harry Douglas (who fielded 8 punts in 2012) back there before the end of the year.
Hello, Matt Bryant. The 11-year veteran had another great season in 2012, making 33 of 38 field goals, and the only obstacle is some questionable health as the season approaches. Bryant has had some documented back issues, causing Jeremy Shelley to see a lot of the field in the preseason, but if Bryant is healthy as reports indicate, he’ll be “the guy” and no one is worried about him going forward.
In the intro, I used the word “forgotten” and nothing is more forgotten on a football team than the punter. Matt Bosher had a solid year in 2012, finishing 11th in both yards per punt (47.1) and net punting (40.7), and he’s the only act in town. I wouldn’t say that the Falcons are blowing away the competition in the punting game, but it’s far from a weakness. Also, Bosher remains the kick-off specialist, and he was 6th in the league in touchbacks with 45. Solid, solid, solid.
Overall, the theme with the Falcons’ special teams seems to be consistency. The franchise doesn’t possess a singular weapon that stands out enough to be noticed, but at the same time, the kicking game is quite solid and the return game won’t be embarrassing. In other words, “ho hum”.
Stay tuned for part 5, when we’ll take on the offensive line.