Harry Douglas took over punt returns in 2013 from Dominique Franks, who nearly achieved pariah status in his role as returner in 2012. It isn't going to take long for Douglas to cede that role to Robert Alford.
While many have grumbled a bit about Douglas in the return game, it's not performance reasons that necessitate the move. It's the fact that Douglas is going to be one of the team's top two wideouts, while Alford is (right now) the team's fourth cornerback. The Falcons simply can't risk losing yet another wide receiver on special teams when they desperately need him to step into the vacuum left by Julio Jones going on injured reserve.
Harry Douglas said he understands why the coaches want to scale back on his punt returns or eliminate them completely.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) October 15, 2013
Robert Alford said he's been preparing since training camp to be the primary punt returner.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) October 15, 2013
#Falcons rookie CB Robert Alford set to take over punt return duties vs. Tampa Bay. http://t.co/gWAOn4F4u4— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@AJCFalcons) October 16, 2013
Opportunity knocks for Alford, then, and this might be the best thing for the team over the long haul. Alford undeniably has game-changing speed and athleticism, and if the Falcons are going to roll with three other cornerbacks ahead of him, it's important to get him involved on special teams. I think we might see some explosiveness on punt returns at last.
Douglas, meanwhile, gets a chance to run with the #2 receiver gig going forward, which stands to improve his standing in this offense for 2014 or make some money elsewhere. Let's hope he can roll on.