There has been a lot of optimism surrounding the Atlanta Falcons offseason, but what can derail that hope faster than anything?
The Falcons suffered their first significant injury of the season with the loss of ace-return man Avery Williams to a knee injury. Head coach Arthur Smith confirmed on Wednesday that Williams would be having surgery on Thursday and was likely done for the year.
The news comes as a blow to the Falcons and Williams who led the NFL in punt return average by a significant margin in 2023. His 16.2-yards per return was three-yards better than the next closest player, Kalif Raymond of the Detroit Lions.
Williams was drafted in the 5th round of the 2021 NFL Draft to be the Falcons’ return man. A cornerback in college, he lived up to the billing as a return man for the Falcons before moving to running back last season.
Williams had 22 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown last year and added 13 catches for 61 yards. Smith wanted to use Williams’s ability in to open field as another weapon on offense.
His contributions on offense likely would have been limited in 2023 with the emergence of running back Tyler Allgeier and drafting Bijan Robinson with the No. 8 overall pick.
However his loss on special teams will be felt early for the Falcons. Nearly all of Atlanta’s lesser-known additions this offseason played special teams, and there will be several new names vying for the return spot this offseason.