The Falcons have a productive offense, behind their trio of top 10 picks and complementary pieces. The revolution has come on the other side of the ball.
The defense, under Ryan Nielsen with a slew of new faces, is one of the best units in football, holding opposing offenses to just 17.0 points per game, ranking 8th across the NFL.
Their Week 2 comeback win over the Packers was a perfect example of complementary football. The offense scored on three drives in the fourth quarter while the defense pitched a shutout.
However, the club’s special teams haven’t been very special thus far. Under Marquice Williams, the third phase of the game has been Atlanta’s strength. However, it’s only been average in 2023. I expect that unit to come up big eventually, and it could be this week against the Lions.
After Thursday’s practice, according to Michael Rothstein, Williams divulged into the Falcons’ punt return carousel, stating that Mike Hughes, Dee Alford, and Scotty Miller will all return punts this year.
Alford seemed like he won the job after returning a punt for a touchdown in the preseason, but he’s only taking one, which he fair caught. It’s possible that his role as the nickel defender limits his role on special teams, though I doubt it. Miller has also only received one opportunity, which he returned for four yards. Hughes has received the most punt return opportunities, averaging 10.0 yards per return.
Williams also added that if Cordarrelle Patterson suits up Sunday he will return kicks. Patterson is one touchdown away from owning the league record for most kickoff return touchdowns, but he’s yet to make his 2023 debut.