For the second straight week, the Falcons are bringing home the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Last week, Younghoe Koo snagged the honor after he nailed all four of his field goal tries, but as he was merely mortal this week and hit three of his four tries, the award had to go elsewhere.
Fortunately for us, it went to Kenjon Barner. The Falcons offense was impressive for long stretches of Sunday’s game against the Panthers, but it only accounted for two touchdowns total. Koo and Barner provided the rest of the scoring, with Barner breaking off the NFL’s longest punt return of the season for a score.
Kick returner Kenjon Barner has been named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after breaking off a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown, which is the longest in the NFL this season. It's the second straight week a #Falcons player has won this award. https://t.co/hYXCyPJ1qe— William McFadden (@willmcfadden) November 20, 2019
Before this year, you probably knew Barner best for being dropped by Matt Bosher when he played for the Panthers. Now you know him as the team’s most dynamic returner since Devin Hester left, with an honor and a tremendous punt return touchdown on his resume. He’s also fourth in the NFL in punt return yardage, tops among all qualifiers in average yards per return, and he’s been respectable at worst as a kick returner. Add in the occasional solid play on offense and Barner’s been the rare specialist who has justified his spot on the roster and then some.
With Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith out, Barner’s role on the offense could grow. Neither Brian Hill nor Qadree Ollison stands much of a chance between the tackles right now, but Dirk Koetter has at least been willing to try more exciting stuff with his receivers and Barner, and the latter’s two quality runs last week signal he could do more.
Let’s hope he has some more dynamic returns left in him this season, and congratulations are in order for the award.