The Falcons are not a good team. There are no two ways about that. The offense is bad. The defense looks awful. There just isn’t a lot to like with this roster. This should be a matchup that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the advantage in across the board. Well to quote Lee Corso “Not so fast, my friend”.
There is one area where the Falcons have a distinct advantage over the Buccaneers. That’s right, you read that correctly. An advantage that can keep Atlanta in this game unexpectedly and even put them in a position to win. That area is special teams.
This is an aspect of the game that the Buccaneers made a conscious effort to improve this offseason. Two of their three active game-day rookies are primarily special teams players, with another return specialist inactive. This week we will find out how much their efforts paid off going against one of the best special teams units in the NFL.
Younghoe Koo vs his own offense
Atlanta’s kicker hasn’t been in the league long, but he’s quickly established himself as one of the best kickers in the game. Koo made the most field goals in the league last season at a clip of 95%. This included going 8/8 from beyond 50 yards. So basically, as long as the Falcons offense gets near the 35-yard line then you can expect them to come away with points.
This is a huge asset for a team that could struggle to find the endzone.
Cordarrelle Patterson vs kick off coverage
It’s not hyperbole to say that Cordarrelle Patterson is one of the greatest kick returners in NFL history. He ranks 13th all-time in kickoff return yards and tied for 1st all-time in kickoff return touchdowns. So for a team like the Buccaneers who struggled to cover kickoffs last year, this could be a problem.
Bucs punter Bradly Pinion will be the Buccaneers’ first line of defense. He routinely kicks the ball through the back of the end zone and doesn’t allow returns. He is the reigning special teams player of the week and should be able to keep the ball out of Patterson’s hands.
If there is a return allowed, the coverage unit has to be better this year. Guys like KJ Britt and Grant Stuard were brought in to improve this phase of the Buccaneers. They will likely never see a bigger test than this. If they can’t keep Patterson under wraps then it could be a problem.
Avery Williams vs punt coverage team
In the most recent draft, there was one name that consistently came up as a true special teams ace. That was Boise State University cornerback Avery Williams. In terms of return ability, Williams is electric.
Again, Pinion will do all he can to limit returns. However, it’s harder to completely prevent punt returns than it is kickoff returns. Williams will likely get opportunities with the ball in his hands. The Buccaneers coverage unit will have to contain him to avoid a potential upset.