After a career-year in Detroit last season, wide receiver and return specialist Andre Roberts set high goals for himself in his first season with the Falcons.
“The goal for me has been 25 (yards per return) on kick returns and 12 on punt returns,” Roberts said, “If you can get to those numbers you’ll be at the top of the league. Right now I’m not at those numbers, but we got some time left so we’ll see what happens.”
Through 11 games, Roberts has averaged 21.5 yards per kickoff return and 8.9 yards per punt return, however, Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Roberts hit his mark.
The fleet returner totaled a season high 155 total return yards, 129 on five kickoffs, for an average of 25.8 yards and 26 yards on two punts (13 yards per return). Though the numbers may not show it, the eighth-year man out of The Citadel has been everything the Falcons hoped for, according to special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.
“He’s actually more than what we thought we were going to get,” Armstrong said, “He’s had some explosive plays and some of them haven’t counted, if they counted he’d be on an outstanding run right now.”
Armstrong and the special-teams unit have placed an emphasis on playing penalty-free football. Currently, the Falcons rank 14th in the NFL in special-teams penalties per game (1.18) and 15th in penalty yardage (9.18).
The performance against the Bucs was one that Armstrong believes the team can build upon ahead of their game against Minnesota at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“If you look at the guys in the last game, they’re doing a really good job of saving it and not putting hands on people’s backs,” Armstrong said, “Continue to talk about that, continue to work technique, continue to work situations and hopefully it continues to get better.”
Their opponent Sunday, the Vikings have some of the best special-teams units in the league. Lead by punter Ryan Quigley and do-it-all special teams player Marcus Sherels, the Vikings rank fourth in the NFL in yards allowed per punt return (6.1). Kicker Kai Forbath has been averaging close to four touchbacks per game in his past three games, tied for fourth-best in the league.
Roberts has studied film on Quigley and has experienced Forbath’s leg first-hand, as the two were teammates with the Washington Redskins from 2014-15. He believes the opportunities will be there for his unit to capitalize on.
“I think we’re doing pretty well, obviously we’ve had some hiccups in all parts of special teams,” Roberts said, “Our goal is to get better each and every week and peak at the right time. I think we’re doing a good job of that so far.”
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