For years, the Falcons had the reliable trio of kicker Matt Bryant, punter Matt Bosher, and long snapper Josh Harris holding down the fort on special teams. Now Bryant is gone, Bosher is on IR, and Harris is left to adjust to new teammates.
He’s weathering that just fine and helping his new teammates be ready for Sundays.
“Obviously there has been a lot of turnover for various reasons, whether it’s coming and going or injuries or whatever the case may be,” Harris told The Falcoholic. “It’s been good to be able to get the work in that we need during the week, no matter who it is back there catching snaps, whether it’s on punt or field goal, just being able to get the work and the reps in during the week so that on game day, we’re comfortable with each other.”
Matt Bryant was cut during the offseason, and the team retained Giorgio Tavecchio, who filled in admirably for Bryant while he was injured during the 2018 season. Tavecchio went four of nine on field goals during the 2019 preseason, which led the Falcons to bring in Blair Walsh. Walsh went one for two in Week 4 of the preseason, and the Falcons brought back Matt Bryant. Bryant was released after converting just 64.5 percent of his field goal attempts this season.
There hasn’t just been instability at the kicker position. Harris has worked with Bosher, who landed on IR, as well as Matt Wile, who was later waived with an injury settlement. Atlanta signed Australian punter Sam Irwin-Hill, who had a visa issue that kept him from playing against Arizona, so they went with Kasey Redfern. Redfern was waived in late Oct., and the team added Ryan Allen in his place.
Harris said that despite a virtual revolving door of teammates at the kicker and punter positions, it’s been a great experience.
“And just a tip of the hat to all of the guys who have been in here this year. They’ve all done a great job, and they’ve all been professional,” Harris said. “They’ve all been very fun and easy to work with. So that’s made the transition a little bit easier.”
But it’s still not easy to adjust after working with Bosher and Bryant for so many seasons.
“Being with the same group for seven-plus years and then having a considerable amount of turnover was a little bit challenging at first,” he said. “But that’s how this business works, and there’s going to be new guys come and go. Just being able to bring them along and show them how we operate here and keep them up to speed and just make sure they’re ready to rock on Sundays.”
Younghoe Koo has taken over at kicker for the Falcons, and he had a flawless outing against the Saints last Sunday. He earned NFL Special Teams Player of the Week honors after converting all four of his field goal attempts, including a 48-yarder, and two of two extra point attempts.
“Obviously, very excited for Younghoe and the game that he had on Sunday,” Harris said. “Those were four huge field goals for us throughout the game, plus the extra points that we had as well. I was very excited for him to be able to get out there, get that game under his belt — especially in an environment like that — and perform up to the standard that we have here. So that was a lot of fun to see.”
It’s not easy to have to adjust to new teammates, particularly in a role as specialized as long snapper. Harris’ attitude about it has likely made the many transitions easier not just for himself, but for his new teammates as well.