Falcons Still Sorting Out Special Teams

Falcons punter Michael Keonen kicked four field goals, handled kick-off duties and made all of the team's punts Friday against the Patriots. Although the multi-talented specialist has field-goal experience, the Falcons are likely to give that job to another player to insure Keonen isn't overworked. Ironically, it may be the Patriots that provide Atlanta with the specialist they need.

Falcons coach Jim Mora was impressed to watch Michael Koenen convert all four field-goal attempts, including a game-winner that covered 40 yards and beat New England in the preseason opener.

Koenen, an undrafted rookie last year from Western Washington, spent 2005 as the punter and kickoff specialist, but Atlanta's decision not to re-sign Todd Peterson has created a chance that the Falcons could have one man handling every aspect of the kicking game.

"I don't want to say he proved that he can do all three yet," Mora said. "I think you have to do it for more than one game, but he certainly looks like he has the potential to do it. We have to decide as a staff, as an organization if that's the way we want to go. Then we have to have plans in place in case he gets hurt or if he were to start struggling in one area or another."

Entering an exhibition Saturday night at Green Bay, Mora wanted to give Tony Yelk, an undrafted rookie from Iowa State, some field-goal chances. Yelk converted his lone extra-point attempt in the opener.

In Koenen's other three attempts, he connected from 50, 45 and 44 yards, but the Falcons are wary of his 58.1 conversion percentage in 74 field-goal attempts at Western Washington. He also missed seven of 150 extra-point kicks.

Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, who designs a lot of directional kicking and punting schemes for his coverage units, was very pleased with Koenen's rookie season. Mora liked seeing that four punts against the Patriots had a gross average of 44 yards.

"He has really expanded his repertoire," Mora said. "He can do that backwards one and drop it in there. He can do a forward one and get some backspin. He's got those screamers out of bounds that we're doing that guys can't return."

Unlike some professional athletes, Koenen acknowledges that few kickers could handle such a varied and pressure-packed job description. There's only so much a man can ask of his leg.

"I've got to take care of my body," Koenen said. "I'm just as worried about it as they are. But if it happens, awesome."

Koenen was pleased to continue his success against New England, which called a timeout near the end of the second quarter in Week 5 last year, hoping to make the rookie overthink a 58-yarder that he hit perfectly.

"Coach (Bill) Belichick came up to me before the game and told me, 'We aren't going to give you a timeout this time,' " Koenen said. "When I lined up for the last field goal, I was wondering when they were going to call timeout. It is fun to play them. I have just had two good days against them."

Incidentally, the Patriots could provide a solution for the Falcons when the preseason ends. Belichick, who signed former Tampa Bay kicker Martin Gramatica as a free agent on April 6, used a fourth-round draft pick to take Stephen Gostkowski out of Memphis.

New England already has a solid punter in Josh Miller, so Belichick is likely to cut Gramatica or Gostkowski. When that happens, the Falcons may be the ones to come calling.

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