The Falcons are experimenting with players in new positions, and they’re impressing the coaching staff. Avery Williams, who returned punts and kicks last year, has switched from cornerback to running back. Feleipe Franks, a backup quarterback in 2021, has switched to tight end. And Ryan Neuzil slid inside to center from guard. All of whom have garnered praise from Arthur Smith.
#Falcons Arthur Smith gives particular praise to three players who have made position switches: TE/QB Feleipe Franks, RB Avery Williams, and C Ryan Neuzil.
I am apparently the Ryan Neuzil guy. Smith said he mentioned him for me. Apparently the "Neuz Flash" is a thing!
— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) August 3, 2022
As a rookie for the Falcons, Williams returned 20 punts and 23 kickoffs, totaling 490 kick return yards (21.3-yard average) and 153 punt return yards (7.7-yard average) — ranking in the top 25 in both categories. He’ll still handle those duties but also assume more as a running back. It isn’t really that unheard of for a player to make this transition, especially for someone as talented with the ball in their hands as Williams. Before he even played a snap, I floated the idea of the former Bronco contributing in all three phases of the game.
The shortest route to seeing to the field is special teams, but Williams can develop into a decent cornerback in the future or possibly act as a gadget type of player for the offense. It isn’t outside the realm of possibility for him to contribute in all three phases. Jamal Agnew had a similar role in Detroit, where he played cornerback, wide receiver, and returned punts. I could see a similar career trajectory for Williams.
I could see a Darren Sproles-like role for Williams, giving Arthur Smith and the Falcons offense one more weapon out of the backfield. He’s already dangerous with the ball in his hands, so as long as he can learn the position, Williams should be able to get on the field in special packages. I wouldn’t be so worried about him picking up the new position, though.
Franks ended last season as a backup signal caller but has taken the position change in stride, making a few nice catches during training camp periods.
Feleipe Franks burns Troy Andersen pic.twitter.com/pttYWuBhjy
— Kelly Price (@thekellyprice) August 2, 2022
The former Florida Gator is exceptionally athletic, so the switch isn’t as big a deal as most quarterbacks trying to play tight end. Justin Peelle, the Falcons tight end coach, has taken on the challenge of getting Franks ready for the opportunity to make an impact at his new position.
All of the players are still adjusting to their new roles, but Avery Williams is undoubtedly a name to watch. Having him and Cordarrelle Patterson on the field simultaneously would create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. It’s up to Arthur Smith to get creative and put these sorts of packages into motion.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire