The Atlanta Falcons are apparently close to getting one of their starters back from injured reserve, but it might not be the starter you expected. Punter Cameron Nizialek has been designated to return from IR and has begun practicing as of Wednesday. Atlanta now has 21 days to officially activate him from IR.
Cam Nizialek has returned to practice. https://t.co/tQuJSaEl7K— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) November 3, 2021
The team has had a run of bad injury luck at the punter position stretching all the way back to training camp. 2020 seventh-round pick Sterling Hofrichter and former UDFA Dom Maggio both missed significant time, with Hofrichter winding up on IR to start the season before eventually being cut. Cameron Nizialek joined the team during the preseason to compete for the open job, and ended up as the team’s punter for the first four games of the season.
Nizialek had his ups and downs, particularly in Week 2 against the Bucs, but was playing well before his injury in Week 4 against Washington. He appeared to hurt himself on the kickoff that was returned for a TD, tried to kick again later in the game, and was forced to exit. Nizialek was averaging 45.4 yards per punt this season, which is pretty good. His kickoffs were less than stellar, however, as he was averaging just a 40% touchback rate.
After Nizialek wound up on IR, the team brought in veteran Dustin Colquitt to fill in. Colquitt had a lackluster debut against the Jets, with a very poor 28.0 yards per punt average, but rebounded over the past two games. In Week 8 against the Panthers, Colquitt was excellent, averaging 47.5 yards per punt.
It remains to be seen what the Falcons will do at the punter position once Nizialek is cleared to return. However, it’s worth noting that Colquitt is 39 and is likely nearing the end of his career. Atlanta will need to find a long-term solution at punter, and it would be wise to see if Nizialek can fill that role. His existing relationship with Younghoe Koo also adds to his value.
We’ll see what the Falcons do once Nizialek is healthy enough to return to game action. Here’s to hoping that’s sooner rather than later.