The Falcons have a great kicker in Matt Bryant, which virtually no one would dispute. They were among the league leaders in kickoff return yardage, which doesn’t really fit with what we saw in 2017, but we’ll sort of incorporate it into our grumbling. And despite an unusually errant year from Matt Bosher, I think we’d agree that he’s a very good punter, and has been throughout his entire career.
Why was the Falcons’ special teams unit so aggravating, then? There are many reasons, but one is that their kickoff coverage really was the worst in the NFL.
The #Falcons special teams were sub-standard this season. They finished in the bottom half of the league (22nd) in Rick Gosselin’s industry leading rankings.— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) January 23, 2018
This jibes with what we saw from the team, which regularly allowed big gains on returns and sometimes exacerbated the problem with penalties. That was true for Atlanta’s returns, too, but at least they occasionally sprang Andre Roberts for a decent-sized return. The Falcons lost the field position battle all year long because this was an unusually undisciplined, sometimes downright lousy special teams unit that coasted on Matt Bryant’s excellence.
The Falcons did a solid job preventing other teams from scoring, I suppose, but this was not a banner year for Keith Armstrong. Now that the veteran special teams coach is more or less locked in to his job for 2018, the Falcons will set about adding quality young players to a special teams unit that relied heavily on strong performances from Kemal Ishmael, Duke Riley, and Derrick Coleman, and didn’t get enough from the rest of its coverage unit. The Falcons can survive a so-so special teams unit, but they shouldn’t passively accept one.