Atlanta Falcons rookie wide receiver Justin Hardy is itching. He's not itching because of a mysterious rash or peanut allergy. He's itching because it's his time. With Leonard Hankerson officially out Sunday and Nick Williams hobbled. Hardy is expected to make his regular season debut in less than 48 hours. It's time.
Hardy drew rave reviews in training camp. Many thought he would push Hankerson for playing time. But then he was inactive in week one. And inactive again in week two. And inactive again ... you get the point. Through seven regular season games, He hasn't been active once. At some point we recognized the trend and basically declared 2015 Hardy's "redshirt" year.
It's looking more and more like Hardy will be in uniform for the first time in a real game against Tampa Bay (2-4). Hardy isn't assuming anything. ''I'm just going in this week and not changing anything,'' Hardy said, adding he's preparing to play and then will ''wait and see what goes on the rest of the week.''
Hardy is a talented kid, there's no doubt about that. He's got great hands and he plays smart football. But the NFL is a big jump, and the coaches thought he needed a little seasoning. You have to respect that.
So what can we expect from Hardy? I don't expect the team to rely on him much on Sunday. He's still got arguably the best receiver in the league and Roddy White ahead of him on the depth chart. Couple that with Devonta Freeman's substantial role and Jacob Tamme's hands of gold. He's not going to get more than a few looks. That said, he will get those looks. It's his chance to prove he can hang with the big boys. It's in his hands.
Go get it, Justin.