Falcons: What’s the toughest aspect of Avery Williams’ position change?

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One of the most interesting storylines Falcons fans have to look forward to this season is Avery Williams‘ position change from cornerback to running back. After being drafted in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft, Williams played sparingly for Dean Pees, only earning snaps via injuries ahead of him on the depth chart. However, the Falcons didn’t select him as a lockdown corner; it was for his prowess in the game’s third phase.

On special teams, Williams totaled 38 kick returns for 1,042 yards, including three touchdowns, while adding 82 punt returns for 948 yards, including six touchdowns during his time at Boise State. And as a rookie for the Falcons, it was more of the same. He 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. Now, he’ll be in the backfield with Cordarrelle Patterson and recent fifth-round pick Tyler Allegier.

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.

“He’s an extremely hard worker. I don’t know if you’ll find anyone who puts more into the scheme and knowing what all 11 guys are doing. He’s coachable, wanting to know how to do it better instead of asking if it was good enough. His transition has been going pretty well,” running backs coach Michael Pitre said.

However, the single aspect of playing running back at the professional level that hampers most is protecting the quarterback, and Williams is no different.

“Once it becomes real, the pass protection aspect. The physicality of it. With his return-game experience, he shows natural vision. You’re not overly worried or concerned about that. I think, for any running back transitioning to the position, the pass protection piece is always the hardest and most difficult,” Pitre continued. 

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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