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Falcons post-draft roster review: Special teams

A look at the new and current special teams unit.

Mark Brown/Getty Images

You can make an argument, when looking at the Atlanta Falcons 2021 roster, that the special teams unit was arguably their best group. You had kicker Younghoe Koo doing Younghoe Koo things, veteran Thomas Morstead performing as one of the best punters in the league once the team signed him, long snapper Josh Harris making the Pro Bowl and earning an All-Pro selection, and the combination of Avery Williams and Cordarrelle Patterson made the return game respectable again.

Enter 2022, and there’s been some big changes to such a solid group. The Falcons let their punter and long snapper leave in free agency, as Morstead is now with the Miami Dolphins and Harris is now with the Los Angeles Chargers.

We’ve been reviewing the position groups following the 2022 NFL Draft, and today we will look at where the special teams unit currently stands.

The Falcoholic post-draft roster reviews: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | EDGE | ILB | CB | S |

Kicker: Younghoe Koo

Younghoe Koo

2021 Stats: 17 games played, 17 games started | 27/29 field goal attempts, 30/30 PAT attempts, 93.1% field goal | 87.0 overall PFF grade

If the Falcons have done anything right in the last few decades, it’s finding quality kickers. From Morten Andersen to Matt Bryant to now Younghoe Koo, it sure seems like the kicking game is a true strength again on this team. Koo has become a true asset for the Falcons as he has developed not only into a reliable kicker, but he also has a knack for onside kicks.

There’s not a lot else that needs to be said here, Koo is the Falcons’ kicker and has no competition for the position. It’s his.

Punters: Dom Maggio, Seth Vernon

Dom Maggio

2021 Stats: 0 games played, 0 games started

As of now, the Falcons have really backed themselves into a corner with the field position game. They went from landing a steal in veteran Thomas Morestead last year to now having two punters who have never punted in the NFL. Maggio has been rotating on and off of the Falcons’ practice squad since 2021, and is suddenly the current favorite for the job. He was solid in college, and still holds a school record for having played 40 games with a 40+ yard punting average. We shall see if that translates to the NFL.

Seth Vernon

2021 Stats: 0 games played, 0 games started

One of the more interesting names that the Falcons added during the UDFA signing period was Seth Vernon. Like Maggio, Vernon is a rather large punter, standing tall at 6’5, 230lbs.

As a senior at Portland State, Vernon averaged an impressive 44.9 yards per punt. Needless to say, unless they add a veteran such as Morestead before the season starts, the punting job is very much up for grabs in Atlanta. Vernon shouldn’t be ruled out.

Long Snappers: Liam McCullough, Beau Brinkley (IR)

Liam McCullough

2021 Stats: 0 games played, 0 games started

Another position where the Falcons went out of their way to create a questionable hole is long snapper. For a decade, the Falcons had arguably one of the best long snappers in the league who in his tenth season, was selected to the Pro Bowl and named an All-Pro. But they let him walk in free agency for essentially the same cost as signing Liam McCullough and Beau Brinkley this offseason, gambling that one of those two will prove to be a solid option.

McCullough has bounced around the Las Vegas Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squads and has not played in an NFL game yet. He was signed to the Falcons roster in April and will hope to come away with the job this summer.

Beau Brinkley

2021 Stats: 3 games played, 3 games started

With Harris off to Los Angeles, the Falcons signed Beau Brinkley, who has bounced around a few teams’ practice squads since playing at a high level for the Tennessee Titans from 2012-2020. He definitely has a lot more experience than McCollough, but the issue is Brinkley is currently on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.

If he’s healthy by the start of the season, Brinkley is the expected starter, but it’s fair to expect McCullough to hold down the job for now.

Punt Returner: Avery Williams

Avery Williams

2021 Stats: 15 games played, 15 games started, 20 returns, 153 yards

In his rookie season with the Falcons, Avery Williams made quite an impact on the return game finishing, as a top-3 punt returner according to PFF. Of Williams’ punt returns, he averaged 7.7 yards per return and had a long of 23.

In 2022, Williams will continue to start as the punt returner and has also switched positions, moving from cornerback to running back. He may also be out there on kick returns, as he had 23 of them in 2021 and Cordarrelle Patterson focused on offense late in the year.

Kick Returner: Cordarrelle Patterson

Cordarrelle Patterson

2021 Stats: 16 games played, 16 games started, 18 returns, 434 yards

The Falcons have themselves a real gem in Cordarrelle Patterson, who emerged as an offensive weapon in 2021. He’s (thankfully) returned to Atlanta and figures to remain a major part of the offense.

Patterson, along with Williams, returned kicks for the Falcons in 2021 where he averaged 24.1 yards per return and a long of 32 yards. It’s possible that the Falcons may lessen his returns to protect him from wear and tear of kick returns, but he’s one of the best ever, so I wouldn’t count on it.

Outlook: Great in some spots, questionable in others

The special teams unit probably has one of the widest gaps between experienced top options and inexperienced unknowns on the roster. We know what Koo, Patterson and Williams bring to the table. What we don’t know is how the current inexperience at long snapper and punter will affect the unit as a whole.

There’s plenty of time before training camp and the eventual start of the season, so don’t be surprised if a few more pieces are added to this group before then. Otherwise, the Falcons will be hoping they have some gems in between Maggio, Vernon, McCullough, and maybe Brinkley if he’s healthy.