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Falcons post-2020 roster review: special teams

Fact: Younghoe Koo wishes to be a baller, a shot caller, with 20 inches blades on his Impala

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

2020 was an ugly year for the Falcons, but the special teams play was one noteworthy exception. Let’s take a look at how the special teamers played in 2020 and what newly hired special teams coordinator Marquice Williams may have to work with in 2021.

Younghoe Koo

2020 Stats: successfully converted 37 of 39 field goal attempts (including 8 of 8 over 50 yards); successfully converted 33 of 36 extra point attempts

Contract Status: Koo is an exclusive rights free agent. (What does that mean? Simply stated, if the Falcons offer him a league minimum contract, he can’t negotiate with other teams. In short, he will be the Falcons kicker in 2021.)

Koo was undoubtedly the Falcons’ best special teamer in 2021, accounting for 144 of the Falcons’ 396 points this season. He was somehow not named an All-Pro, which casts doubt on the entire process used to name All-Pro selections, but that’s a discussion for another day. He did earn a Pro Bowl nod, which I suppose counts for something.

Sterling Hofrichter

2020 Stats: 56 punts, 2381 punt yards, 42.5 yards/punt (gross average), 4.42 seconds average hangtime, 19/56 punts resulted in fair catches

Contract Status: UFA in 2024

The Hof had a solid rookie campaign, notwithstanding a yards per punt average that won’t knock your socks off. He only put 4 of his punts out of bounds. 46.45% of his punts were returned, but opposing returners only averaged 5.5 yards/return. Also, keep an eye out for what the Falcons do on kickoffs in 2021. Hofrichter kicked off for the Falcons 22 times in 2020, averaging 62.9 yards. His touchback percent was 72.7%. (Koo kicked off for the Falcons 66 times, averaging 63 yards. His touchback percentage was 42.4%.)

Brandon Powell

2020 Stats: 15 games played, 8.9 yards/punt return, 20.2 yards/kickoff return

Contract Status: Powell is a restricted free agent. (Because he has 3 accrued seasons and an expired contract, Powell can negotiate with any team. That said, the Falcons can “tender” him, giving them the chance to match any offer he gets from another team, as well as draft pick compensation if he does sign elsewhere.)

Powell’s longest punt return in 2020 was 24 yards. His longest kickoff return was 20.2 yards. He didn’t return any punts or kickoffs for a touchdown, but it’s hard to hold that against him. (8 players returned a single punt for a touchdown in 2020. And 7 players returned a single kickoff for a touchdown in 2020.) For what it’s worth, Williams appears to be Powell’s biggest fan.

Josh Harris

2020 Stats: 16 games played, 1 assist on tackle, no screw ups

Contract Status: UFA in 2022

When you look up the word “consistent” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Josh Harris. 2021 will be his 10th season with the Falcons. (He’s missed 5 games since the Falcons signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Auburn in 2012—all in 2018.) I’d imagine he isn’t going anywhere any time soon. And just in case you were thinking it, he’s only due $1.075 million in 2021, so the Falcons aren’t going to cut him in pursuit of cap savings.

Outlook

This group played some solid football in 2020, and we should be excited about what they can do in 2021 and beyond. I’m not sure Powell will be back in Atlanta in 2021, though Williams’ public statements do seem to indicate that the Falcons are interested in retaining him going forward.

Your thoughts about state of special teams in Atlanta, Falcoholics?