It's time for the post-mortem. After a 13-win season came to a sudden halt at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, the Atlanta Falcons find themselves back at square one. So what to do now? In the coming months, I'll take a look at who they may draft and what free agents they could pursue but first let's review how each Falcon did in 2010 and what their future outlook holds.
To kick us off (pun intended) is the special teams. As a team, the Falcons were the best in the NFL averaging 26.5 yards per kick return but curiously, they had fewer punt returns (19) and kick returns (46) than any other team in the league. As a coverage unit, the Falcons allowed one return touchdown but were ninth in kick coverage, allowing only 21.3 yards per return.
Returner Eric Weems
Weems is a Pro Bowler. Let that sink in for a bit. The same guy us fans have tried to replace as returner for two seasons is a Pro Bowler. I led the charge to give Harry Douglas or Jerious Norwood the returning job but I can eat some crow here. The Falcons were one of only three teams to return both a punt and kickoff for touchdowns this season and Weems was the reason. He finished fourth in the league with a 12.8 yards per punt return average and was third in the NFL with a 27.5 yards per kick return average. It's hard to ask for much more from 5' 8" undrafted free agent.
Placekicker Matt Bryant
Bryant was another player under the hot seat after a mediocre finish to the 2009 season. He battled with Steven Hauschka in training camp before winning the job after the first preseason game. He never looked back. Bryant had one of his best seasons as a pro and finished fourth in the league by connecting on over 90 percent of his field goal attempts. Even more impressive? I can't remember a kick that he missed that was crucial to the game's outcome. He quietly delivered every time the Falcons asked him to. The epitome of what a kicker should be.
Punter Michael Koenen
The good news had to run out some time. The punting team was the only part of the Falcons special teams to have a bad season. Koenen finished 30th in yards per punt (40.2) and was one of only eight players to have a punt blocked. I don't think he's in any danger of being replaced but field position plays a big role in deciding football games and Koenen didn't do the Falcons any favors this year.
Unless somebody blows the coaching staff out of the water in training camp, Weems is locked in as the return man. He's not a threat to make the transition to receiver but he's a valuable asset to this team the way he can change field position or simply score himself.
Bryant's season went as well as I could have imagined but kickers have notoriously short leashes so he'll need to continue to play at this level to keep his job safe. He doesn't have a strong leg (only one attempt from 50 or more yards) but he's consistent inside 40 yards and that's really all you can ask from a kicker. He'll be 36 this year but kickers can play until they're 60.
Koenen was one of the worst punters in the league in 2010 but he was only slightly below his career average so perhaps the Falcons don't get overly concerned about net average and blocks. I'm certainly not going to pretend I understand how a team evaluates punters but from what I saw this season, the Falcons lost over 30 yards of field position each game due to his poor kicks.
Still to come is the skill positions, offensive line, defensive front seven and the secondary.