Falcons Position Battles: Punt returner likely between two players

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Some positions are completely solidified for the Falcons — Matt Ryan, Jake Matthews, A.J. Terrell, etc. At the same time, some position battles will take the entire preseason to work themselves out. Special teamers, running backs, offensive and defensive linemen will all be looking to prove themselves in live-action. Those positions are hard to differentiate yourself from the competition because full-speed, physical contact is such an important factor when determining who is and who isn’t effective.

Not many people are talking about one position that makes a significant impact — punt returner. Not only can they score in an instant, but field position is also something that is extremely undervalued to most casual football fans. The Falcons released their first depth chart on Tuesday, and as Chase pointed out, rookies will have to earn it.

Putting Kyle Pitts at TE3 tells us a lot about Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot. Ever since taking the job, they have said that internal competition would be key to success; nothing will be handed to anyone anymore. So, it’s no surprise that they made a statement by putting the rookies much lower on the depth chart than people might have expected. Second- and third-round selections, Richie Grant and Jalen Mayfield, were listed as third stringers, and the rest of the 2021 draft class also hovered around the bottom of the depth chart.

The same rings true on special teams. On the official depth chart, Chris Rowland is ahead of rookie Avery Williams, who was essentially drafted for his special teams prowess. At his peak, the former Boise State standout could be similar to Jamal Agnew, who contributed in Detroit on all three phases — offense, defense, and special teams.

Whichever of Rowland or Williams wins the punt returner job; I fully expect the other to get cut. I have to believe the latter has a leg up in the position battle, given the regime drafted him. Still, with their no-nonsense philosophy, Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith certainly seem like men who could admit their mistakes fairly quickly and cut bait, so Williams will have to earn his spot on the roster just like everyone else.

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