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Keith Armstrong: The returner battle may go down to the wire

Competition is a good thing, especially when you don’t have a slam dunk option.

Atlanta Falcons v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

If you are like me, you had no idea who was supposed to be ahead in the returner battle after last Friday’s game against the Jets. It turns out that Keith Armstrong doesn’t, either.

This is the first time in years that the battle for the kick and punt returner jobs are actually open, as in previous years it was all but a formality that it would go to Andre Roberts, Eric Weems, and Devin Hester, depending on the season. This year, the Falcons are trotting out Calvin Ridley, Ito Smith, Marvin Hall, Reggie Davis, Isaiah Oliver, Justin Hardy, and maybe Kurt Benkert to determine who should field those kicks and punts. Minicamp, training camp and now the first preseason game haven’t given us a lot of clarity as to who is out ahead, though my suspicion is that Marvin Hall and Ito Smith will wind up in front.

Knowing that, though, we’ll be in less of a hurry to look for an obvious winner, because there probably won’t be one after Week 2. There’s really no need to rush things when you have this many options, and the Falcons have a powerful incentive to get it right after Roberts occasionally bombed his returns to unspectacular effect a year ago. Whether they settle on pure competence or flashy return skills, they just need to upgrade on what they were trotting out a year ago, when special teams was such an issue.

That said, let’s get your updated predictions. Who wins the gig?