May 20, 2024

The potential comeback of Avery Williams is poised to provide a significant uplift to the 2024 Falcons. Atlanta sorely felt the absence of this dynamic returner and versatile player more than initially anticipated when he succumbed to a season-ending injury during organized team activities. Williams was a linchpin for the team, expected to excel as a punt returner, offer a valuable kick return option in Cordarrelle Patterson’s absence, and serve as a speedy complement to Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, and Patterson in the backfield as a runner and receiver. Losing the versatility that Williams brought was akin to misplacing a Swiss Army knife on a day when you desperately needed its multifunctional capabilities.

Boise State roster countdown 2020: Day 26, Avery Williams - One Bronco  Nation Under God

At the time of Williams’ injury, the loss was lamented, but the full extent of his absence became painfully evident as the season progressed. Consider the following statistics:

In 2022, the Falcons led the NFL in average yardage per punt return by a considerable margin, with 16.2 yards (the Lions came second at 13.2). They were one of only eight teams to achieve a 40-plus yard return. However, in 2023, without Williams, they plummeted to third to last in the NFL with an average of just 7.2 yards per punt return. They accrued fewer total punt return yards (230 versus 292) despite 15 more returns. In 2022, Williams averaged a respectable 19.6 yards per kick return on 16 attempts, allowing him to be a dependable returner while Patterson was selectively deployed. In 2023, the Falcons managed only 14 kick returns in total, and only Patterson surpassed Williams’ 2022 average. Mike Hughes, with a meager 15.3 yards per return, was the next closest.

The Falcons ranked second to last in the NFL in kick return average. In 2022, Williams provided a valuable change-of-pace option with an average of 5 yards per carry, complementing the more physical running styles of Allgeier and Patterson. Additionally, he served as a reliable receiving option out of the backfield. Without him, the Falcons lacked a super speedy option and an established receiving back, resulting in Bijan Robinson handling a greater workload. Utilizing Robinson in this capacity seemed suboptimal given his talents; Williams’ return will allow the team to better utilize Robinson’s touches. When considering these factors collectively, the Falcons lost a proficient kick returner, a valuable reserve running back and receiving threat, and one of the league’s premier punt returners. As previously noted, Atlanta’s subpar starting field position and underwhelming special teams performance were direct consequences of Williams’ absence. His versatility was sorely missed, particularly in the realm of returns.

On a positive note, Williams is expected to return in time for training camp this year, and his importance to the team has been underscored. With no established third back on the roster, the Falcons can evaluate whether Williams can fulfill that role. If healthy, he is likely to resume his duties as the team’s primary kick and punt returner, especially with Patterson’s uncertain status. Transitioning from the inconsistent performance of Mike Hughes to Williams’ proven excellence will undoubtedly bolster the team’s offensive positioning.

While the Falcons will make numerous roster adjustments in the lead-up to summer, the impact of Williams’ return should not be underestimated. The team learned the hard way just how crucial their most versatile player was during the 2023 season.

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