ATLANTA - AUGUST 12: Harry Douglas #83 of the Atlanta Falcons runs with a catch against Nate Ness #32 of the Miami Dolphins during a preseason game at the Georgia Dome on August 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
D. Orlando Ledbetter was all over this story a few days back, but I didn't get to it until now. C'est la vie.
The returner battles haven't been settled yet, but DOL strongly indicates that it'll take more than one player to replace the versatile Eric Weems. While no one was devastated to see Weems go—he wasn't much of a receiver, and despite his overall excellent special teams value, he had an unimpressive 2011.
Still, he was versatile and a damn fine special teams tackler, so it's a loss. Rather than try to find one guy to replace him, the Falcons will probably roll with a different guy for each return job. These battles appear to be divided up already, pitting UDFA James Rodgers against running back Antone Smith for the kick returner job and Harry Douglas against Dominique Franks for punt returner.
While Douglas and Franks will have roles regardless of what happens, the kick returner job fight is a little more urgent. Antone Smith and James Rodgers are only going to make the team based on their special teams value, so the loser will probably be cut. If that's not a powerful incentive, I don't know what is.
As for who will replace Weems, the tackler...I hope it's somebody. That dude was unparalleled as a tiny man able to lay a big hit and/or serve as a human shield.
Who do you think wins these battles?