With the not-so-surprising cut of Devin Hester today, the Falcons created an expected competition in camp for punt and kick return duties. Hester was phenomenal for the team in 2014, but missed most of 2015 with injury. Given his age and the risk of not being fully healthy, it made sense to move on. So, who will compete for the open returner positions in camp?
Quinn said the Falcons are looking at Weems, Hardy, Fuller, Williams, Coleman to fill the kick/punt returner duties— Andrew Hirsh (@andrewhirsh) July 26, 2016
Coach Quinn actually separated the two returner roles in his press conference on Monday, making it clear that it’s not just one position that is up for grabs. Initially, Eric Weems will get the primary looks at punt returner. Devin Fuller, Justin Hardy and Nick Williams will also get opportunities in camp to show what they can do. Both Hardy and Williams got opportunities during the preseason last year, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of these two players take the position. Fuller will be playing catch-up, since he’s missed camp with injuries so far.
Prediction: Nick Williams
Weems is a great all around special teams player, but the team needs to get younger at these positions. Hardy has a solid role on the offense, so using Williams in this position - who showed an incredible ability to be elusive last year - makes a lot of sense.
The requirement at kick returner is slightly different and a new name gets thrown into the mix: Tevin Coleman. The Falcons want a player with good downfield speed and Coleman has it in spades. While Weems, Fuller, Hardy and Williams will all get a look at kick returner as well, this competition will likely come down to Fuller and Coleman - given their speed.
Prediction: Tevin Coleman
Coleman’s ability to hit the “homerun” was evident last year. So long as he can hold onto the ball, this looks like a position he’ll thrive in. Fuller could still take this position - given that Coleman has a notable role on offense - but until he’s healthy, the money should be on Coleman.
What are your thoughts on who will take the two open returner roles?