Falcons players change position in stride
The Falcons are experimenting with players in new positions and they’re impressing the coaching staff. Avery Williams, who returned punts and kicks last year, went from cornerback to running back. Feleipe Franks, substitute quarterback in 2021, moved to the short end. And Ryan Neuzil slid inside to cross from guard. All received praise from Arthur Smith.
#Hawks Arthur Smith has particular praise for three players who have made positional changes: TE/QB Feleipe Franks, RB Avery Williams and C Ryan Neuzil.
I’m apparently Ryan Neuzil’s guy. Smith said he mentioned it to me. Apparently the “Neuz Flash” is a thing!
— Kevin Knight (@AlcoholicKevin) August 3, 2022
As a rookie for the Falcons, Williams returned 20 punts and 23 kickoffs, totaling 490 punt return yards (average 21.3 yards) and 153 punt return yards (average 7.7 yards) – ranking in the top 25 in both categories. He will still handle those duties, but will also take on more of a running back. It’s not exactly unusual for a player to make this transition, especially for someone as talented with the ball in hand as Williams. Before he even played a snap, I floated the idea of the former Bronco contributing to all three phases of the game.
The shortest route to the field is special teams, but Williams can become a decent cornerback in the future or possibly act as a gimmick-type player for offense. It is not out of the realm of possibility for him to contribute to all three phases. Jamal Agnew played a similar role in Detroit, where he played cornerback, wide receiver and punters. I could see a similar career trajectory for Williams.
Then I mentioned that he might have a similar impact on a familiar face for Falcons fans – former Saints weapon Darren Sproles.
I could see a Darren Sproles role for Williams, giving Arthur Smith and the Falcons offense one more weapon out of the backfield. He’s already dangerous with the ball in his hands, so as long as he can learn the position, Williams should be able to enter the pitch in special packages. I wouldn’t be so worried about him landing the new job, though.
Franks finished last season as a backup flagger, but took the switch in stride, making some great catches during training camp periods.
Felipe Franks burns Troy Andersen pic.twitter.com/pttYWuBhjy
— Kelly Price (@thekellyprice) August 2, 2022
The former Florida Gator is exceptionally athletic, so the change isn’t as big as most quarterbacks trying to play tight end. Justin Peelle, the Falcons’ short ends coach, took on the challenge of preparing Franks for the opportunity to make an impact in his new position.
All the players are still adjusting to their new roles, but Avery Williams is definitely a name to watch. Having him and Cordarrelle Patterson on the pitch simultaneously would create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. It’s up to Arthur Smith to get creative and implement these kinds of packages.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire