When the Falcons drafted Justin Hardy, he came to Atlanta as a highly-touted fourth rounder known for crisp routes and sure hands. It was not difficult to envision that kind of player finding immediate success. That's why for so many, Hardy's continued presence on the inactives list is so baffling.
The Falcons have gotten stellar contributions out of Julio Jones, who has 49 catches for 638 yards and 4 touchdowns. Their second-leading receiver is running back Devonta Freeman, though, and while Leonard Hankerson has put up some quality surface numbers, he has had an unconscionable number of drops through six weeks. Whether you blame a declining skill set, Matt Ryan's inability to find him, or his role in the offense, Roddy White has ranged from a small factor to a non-factor each week, and Nick Williams is literally good for one clutch catch per week. The receiving corps so many felt would be a strength for the team has been something less than stellar, in other words.
Despite that, Hardy has not been active once. Every week, I get several dozen questions about the rookie, and everyone wants to know if he's hurt, if he somehow angered the coaching staff, if he's being held in a secure underground bunker in Russia, etc. The simplest explanation for Hardy's continued absence is that the coaching staff doesn't feel he's ready to contribute, and given that he looked like a perfectly capable receiver in the preseason, it's probably related to his blocking, special teams, incomplete grasp of the playbook, or all three.
That might seem an unsatisfying explanation for holding out a potentially valuable pass catcher, but consider the impact a receiver running the wrong route, blowing a block, and being unable to contribute on special teams can have, and you can understand the team's reluctance. Roddy White isn't the best blocking receiver in the league, but it's no great coincidence that Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are eating up huge chunks of yardage while White, Julio Jones, and Hank Time are out there helping to spring them. We don't know why Hardy isn't active, but I think this is one of the more plausible explanations.
Bluntly, the Falcons shouldn't be in the business of making decisions based on what the fans want. I'm hopeful we'll see Hardy sooner than later, because I honestly believe he can be a useful addition to this offense right now, but there's no way to know when the team will deem him ready to contribute. All we can do is hope that if he continues to be on the inactives list, the offense will get a little more out of their non-Julio options in the weeks ahead.