Atlanta Falcons’ 90-man roster analysis: The special teams

Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo discusses his selection as the NFC’s Pro Bowl kicker.

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of an eight-part, position-by-position series analyzing the Falcons’ roster before they report for training camp Tuesday.

The Falcons’ much-maligned special-teams units will be overhauled by new coordinator Marquice Williams.

The main work will start after the players report to training camp Tuesday.

The Falcons are coming off of a season in which they watched an onside kick roll until the other team recovered it, the coordinator was fired and the rookie punter struggled.

NFL writer Rick Gosselin ranked the Falcons 22nd (420 points) in the NFL in his 2020 ranking of special teams.

Gosselin has compiled the rankings for the past 42 seasons. He ranks all 32 teams in 22 categories and ranks them from one to 32. The low numbers are better.

The Patriots finished first with 214 points and were followed by the Seahawks (222.5), Lions (235.5), Colts (244.5) and Saints (260.5).

The Chargers (519) were ranked last and just below the Vikings (518), Rams (507), Packers (492.5) and Browns (465).

Six playoff teams were ranked in the top nine.

The Falcons ranked first in field goals made, with 38. They were fifth in field-goal percentage (95) and were second in punt coverage (5.46 yards).

They ranked last (32nd) in punting (42.5 yards).

Kicker Younghoe Koo, who played at Georgia Southern, had a breakthrough season and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. He made 37 of 39 field-goal attempts.

He made all eight of his attempts from 50 yards or more. His 37 field goals led the NFL was set a new team single-season record.

There’s no update on whether his cleats have been returned after his car was stolen recently.

Punter Sterling Hofrichter was drafted in the seventh round of the 2020 draft out of Syracuse.

“After finishing 31st in gross punting value, Hofrichter’s job is on the line,” Thomas Bassinger wrote in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2021. “The Falcons’ first acquisition this offseason was Wake Forest product Dom Maggio, who signed with the Ravens after the 2020 draft but did not make the team.”

The Falcons have a plan to help Hofrichter improve.

“I’m always excited to get guys better (with) their fundamentals and their techniques,” Williams said. “There will be some little tweaks that we work on. He has talent. He has a talented leg. It will be up to me to get him to be more consistent with that leg with those basic fundamentals.”

With the signing of Cordarrelle Patterson, the Falcons’ kickoff returns should improve.

“His 9.1 points of return value last season led the NFL, extending his streak of top-five finishes to three,” Bassinger wrote. “After signing Patterson, the Bears went from last in average line of scrimmage after kickoffs in 2018 to the top 10 in 2019 and 2020.”

Patterson is a four-time Pro Bowler as a kickoff returner.

Rookie cornerback Avery Williams and second-year wide receiver Chris Rowland will compete for the punt-return job.

Williams, a former walk-on at Boise State, returned six punts for touchdowns and three kickoffs for touchdowns in college.

Marquice Williams comes to the Falcons from the Detroit Lions, where he was the assistant special-teams coordinator.

He spent his first year in the NFL in 2016 with the San Diego Chargers under special-teams coordinator Craig Aukerman, who has spent the past four seasons in Tennessee.

When Falcons coach Arthur Smith was looking for a special-teams coordinator, Aukerman recommended Williams. Shortly after Smith was named head coach by the Falcons on Jan. 16, he set up a virtual interview.

Williams was mentored by former Falcons special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis and Michigan State coach Mel Tucker, who pushed him to try to land a NFL job. Tucker was the Bears’ defensive coordinator from 2013-14, and DeCamillis was the team’s special-teams coordinator.

“We want to be great with our fundamentals,” Williams said. “If it’s in the kicking game on the return game. We are going to be great on fundamentals.”

Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson runs for yardage during team practice at minicamp Wednesday, June 10, 2021, in Flowery Branch. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Atlanta Falcons’ 90-man roster analysis:

Part 1: Quarterbacks

Part 2: Running Backs

Part 3: Offensive line

Part 4: Special Teams

Part 5: Wide receivers/Tight ends

Part 6: Defensive line

Part 7: Linebackers

Part 8: Secondary

Credit: AJC

Here’s a look at the projected depth chart heading into training camp:

OFFENSE

WR 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Tajae Sharpe, 88 Frank Darby, 13 Christian Blake, 86 Antonio Nunn

WR 14 Russell Gage, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 12 Chris Rowland, 82 Austin Trammell, Jeff Badet

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 74 William Sweet, 72 Willie Beavers

LG 68 Josh Andrews, 77 Jalen Mayfield, 66 Willie Wright, 62 Bryce Hargrove

C 61 Matt Hennessy, 67 Drew Dalman, 65 Joe Sculthorpe

RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 64 Ryan Neuzil, 75 Kion Smith, 71 Sam Jones

RT 76 Kaleb McGary, 73 Matt Gono, 77 Jalen Mayfield

TE 8 Kyle Pitts, 81 Hayden Hurst, 85 Lee Smith, 87 Jaeden Graham, 46 Parker Hesse, 80 Ryan Becker, 89 John Raine

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 5 AJ McCarron, 15 Feleipe Franks

HB 28 Mike Davis, 30 Qadree Ollison, 84 Cordarrelle Patterson, 36 Tony Brooks-James, 25 Javian Hawkins, 42 Caleb Huntley

FB 40 Keith Smith

DEFENSE

DL 90 Marlon Davidson, 55 Steven Means, 95 Ta’Quon Graham, 79 Chris Slayton

DL 97 Grady Jarrett, 93 Zac Dawe, 94 Deadrin Senat, John Atkins

DL 96 Tyeler Davison, 50 John Cominsky, 99 Jonathan Bullard, 69 Olive Sagapolu

OLB 56 Dante Fowler, 92 Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Shareef Miller

ILB 45 Deion Jones, 51 Brandon Copeland, 53 Erroll Thompson

ILB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 43 Mykal Walker, 48 Dorian Etheridge

OLB 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 49 Kobe Jones, George Obinna

RCB 22 Fabian Moreau, 20 Kendall Sheffield, 29 Chris Williamson

LCB 24 A.J. Terrell, 33 Tyler Hall, 34 Darren Hall, 38 Marcus Murphy, 41 J.R. Pace

NCB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 25 Delrick Abrams, 35 Avery Williams

FS 23 Erik Harris, 27 Richie Grant, 37 Dwayne Johnson

SS 21 Duron Harmon, 32 Jaylinn Hawkins, 39 T.J. Green, 38 Marcus Murphy

SPECIALISTS

K 7 Younghoe Koo

P 4 Sterling Hofrichter, 9 Dom Maggio

LS 47 Josh Harris

KO 7 Younghoe Koo

KR 84 Cordarrelle Patterson,

PR 12 Chris Rowland, 35 Avery Williams

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