Falcons special teams ace expected to miss 2023 season with injury

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Even though training camp hasn’t even started, the Falcons have already been dealt a tough blow. Arthur Smith told members of the media that special teams ace, Avery Williams, is having surgery and is probably done for the year.

It’s reportedly an ACL injury for the Boise State product, so there is likely no scenario in which he returns in 2023, but as we’ve seen so many times before, it is no longer a career ending injury. However, with Williams out for this season, the Falcons suddenly have a glaring hole.

The often-forgotten third phase of the game is an important facet of successful teams. Special teams aren’t considered until someone needs them or they screw up. It’s a difficult job in the NFL, but Atlanta’s group was elite last year under Marquice Williams, who coordinated the fifth-ranked special teams unit in the NFL by DVOA.

Moreover, Rick Gosselin, a longtime NFL writer with 40+ years of experience, ranked the Falcons’ ST unit as the 10th-best group in 2022. The club led the league in average punt return yardage, thanks to Avery Williams. The former fifth-round pick averaged 16.2 yards per return, which is nearly double the 8.88 yards league average.

The Falcons found an absolute gem in Terry Fonteont’s first draft as GM, and Williams is primed to be one of the best return men in football for years to come, but that will be put on hold in 2023.

The obvious option to replace Williams would be Cordarrelle Patterson. Despite having kickoff return duties, I wouldn’t expect the Falcons to throw out a 32-year-old in those situations. Scotty Miller, Mike Hughes, Dee Alford, Penny Hart and Josh Ali are a few speedsters that could handle punt returns, but I wouldn’t rule out a free agent addition to fill the void.

It’s a devastating injury for Avery Williams, but the coaching staff is confident he’ll return to form.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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