Falcons to play ‘mean and clean’ on special teams

Credit: AJC

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Falcons special teams coordinator Marquice Williams was mentored by Jim Caldwell and former Falcons special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

Credit: AJC

Falcons special-teams coordinator Marquice Williams has some basic tenets for the units.

“We are going to be great on fundamentals,” Williams said Thursday. “Play mean-and-clean football.”

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 with Williams.

Before entering the NFL, Williams spent three seasons in the NFL’s Bill Walsh diversity coaching fellowship program while he was coaching the defensive line at South Dakota.

“The Bill Walsh program is something that I hold dear to my heart,” Williams said. “I had the opportunity to intern in ’13 and ’14 with the Chicago Bears and in ’15 with the Detroit Lions. It was a great opportunity for myself, one, to learn how an NFL organization is run, both on and off the field. It was an opportunity too for myself as a coach to bring those tools to the program that I was coaching with, University of South Dakota.”

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

In 2015, then-Lions coach Jim Caldwell paid for Williams to fly to Detroit for an interview.

“He did a great job of helping me and influencing me to get better as an individual both on and off the field,” Williams said. “From those opportunities, doing it for three consecutive years during training camp and OTAs, then to move forward and get the opportunity in 2016 to interview and get an NFL job, it’s something that means a lot to me.”

Williams tries to give back.

“I try to push other minority coaches that are in the college or high school level to take full advantage of that opportunity and go an coach at the highest level,” Williams said.

Caldwell went the extra mile. He gave Williams a grueling two-hour interview.

“After I got the internship, he was like, ‘You know why I put you through that interview process?’” Williams said. “I was like why, for the internship? He was like, ‘No this was an NFL interview, and I wanted you to get experience at it.’ "

The next season is when Williams landed the job with the Chargers.

“Both on and off the field, it was an opportunity to go out there and coach my butt off and provide information and tools for the college players that I was coaching at the University of South Dakota,” Williams said. “You’d rather be prepared without the opportunity than be unprepared with the opportunity. So, I just try my best to use all those tools as a coach and (things learned) from my mentors to put myself in that position to help others get better.”

The Falcons struggled on special teams last season. Williams has a clear vision of how he wants them to play.

“No. 1, it’s going to be about the men in that room, our players,” Williams said. “They’ll bring the calls to life. It will start with having high effort. Great plays are made from great effort. Seeing those guys go and play with great effort from the beginning of the snap to where ever the ball is kicked to the end of the whistle.”

Williams wants players with the right mindset for special teams duties.

“The attitude that they bring to the table,” Williams said. “When it comes to on the field, in the meeting room, once we into the building. All of the guys understand this, we don’t have to do this. We get to do this. It’s a privilege.”

What exactly is “mean and clean”?

“We’re going to be mean with our technique and be physical, but we are going to play within the rules of the game and use great fundamentals,” Williams said. “That’s going to be key for us. If all 11 men can do that on the field, including our specialists, I think we’re going to like the outcome at the end of the season.”

All of the players won’t be new to Williams. Falcons returner Brandon Powell, a potential restricted free agent, was with the Lions in 2019.

“I love the way he plays the game,” Williams said. “He’s a fearless runner. He has great short-area quickness. I loved the mindset that he plays with.”

Falcons’ 2021 draft position

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

2. New York Jets

3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston)

4. Falcons

5. Cincinnati Bengals

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