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The Falcoholic’s 2018 positional review: Special teams

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How did this unit fare in 2018?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong was relieved of his duties at the end of the season. The move capped off a season that was kind of a mixed bag for Atlanta.

The Falcons finished the season with two kickers on the roster, Matt Bosher had an inconsistent year, and the return game was about as uninspiring as usual. Let’s get into the weeds of how things went on special teams in 2018.

Kicker

Matt Bryant: 13 games, 20/21 FGs (95.2%), 33/35 XPs (94.3%)

Although Bryant did miss three games due to a hamstring injury, he still finished with a characteristically stellar season. There’s not much to be said about Bryant besides the fact that he’s been consistent and clutch throughout his time with the Falcons. Age may be catching up with the only player on Atlanta’s roster who is actually older than I am, based on his recent injury history. But when he was healthy, he was outstanding.

Giorgio Tavecchio: 3 games, 5/5 FGs (100%), 8/8 XPs (100%)

Tavecchio was signed by the Falcons to handle kicking duties when Bryant was sidelined, and he was too good to not keep him on the roster, as unconventional as it is to have to kickers taking up spots at any given time in the regular season. Plus, Tavecchio gave us this moment.

Punter

Matt Bosher: 16 games, 60 punts, 2,485 net yards, 45.5 yards average, 2 blocks, 22 inside the 20, 3 touchbacks, 21 fair catches, 27 returns for 184 yards

Two of Bosher’s punts were blocked this season, bringing his career total to eight. That is unfortunately worse than every other active punter. But the blocks weren’t all on Bosher. He could stand to get punts off more efficiently, but protection issues and especially a Josh Harris injury that landed the long snapper on injured reserve were also factors. Bryant still performed well across the board in general, and with a new special teams coordinator, improvements in protection on punts, and a healthy Josh Harris back in the fold, Bosher should be just fine.

Long snapper

Josh Harris: Harris played in 11 games for Atlanta, and landed on injured reserve. His absence was definitely felt, as I mentioned above.

Jon Condo: Harris and Bosher have been together since 2012, and their chemistry and timing isn’t easy for a replacement to replicate.

Returners

Punts:

Justin Hardy: 20 returns, 147 yards, 7.4 yards average, 23 fair catches, one fumble

Hardy was the team’s primary returner, but I’m not sure he should have been. He was not particularly effective. Of course Marvin Hall, with one fair catch on one attempt, wasn’t necessarily a better option, and he was also called upon to return kicks. But Hardy’s ineffectiveness should create a competition for this spot in 2019.

Kicks:

Marvin Hall: 26 returns, 616 yards, 23.7 yards average, 0 fair catches

Hall wasn’t bad on kick returns. Though it’s a much larger sample size than anyone else who got shots to return kicks last season, Hall was still head and shoulders above everyone but Calvin Ridley in terms of his average per return.

Justin Hardy: 2 returns, 7 yards, 3.5 yards average, 0 fair catches

I would be perfectly fine with not having Hardy return anything for the Falcons in the future.

Calvin Ridley: 2 returns, 50 yards, 25 yards average, 0 fair catches

Ridley, with his explosive athleticism and speed, was pretty good on his two opportunities. But I did question the wisdom of throwing a rookie first-round receiver out there in a role that creates more risk of injury.

Brian Hill: 1 return, 16 yards, 16 yards average, 0 fair catches

Hill only got one shot, but he did alright with it.

It’s hard to know what special teams will look like in the future, but with specialists like Bryant and/or Tavecchio, Bosher, and a healthy Harris back next year, hopefully we’ll see improvements.