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Kenjon Barner figures to snag returner job by sweet, sweet default

Sometimes, the most persuasive case is the one others make for you.

Atlanta Falcons v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Kenjon Barner came to the Falcons with long experience as a speedy back who occasionally does eye-popping things, and a returner who can at least give you solid returns. That reputation was overshadowed quickly by the addition of guys like Marcus Green and Olamide Zaccheaus—so shiny! so new!—but it appears he’s going to get a roster spot and win one or both returner jobs regardless.

That has very little to do with what Barner himself has done. The man who famously and courageously returned his spirit to his body after Matt Bosher separated the two last season has two catches for 32 yards and one carry for basically nothing on offense and has gotten a little action as a returner, and if he makes this team he’ll have a tiny role on offense but a prominent one on special teams. The big difference between him and the men he’s competing against is that he’s done this for years and has largely proven he’s not going to muff punts and kicks, and his competition...has not.

Take Thursday night, when Zaccheaus managed a heads-up play after a Qadree Ollison and a nice reception on a Danny Etling pass, but also muffed a punt that turned into Washington points. Green was hardly better, as he continues to have no role on offense and also muffed a punt, putting what once seemed like a likely roster spot in jeopardy. This is why they play the (preseason) games, folks.

There’s time for Zaccheaus or Green to dazzle in the fourth preseason game and push their way to a role, but at the moment it looks like one or both is in the running for a practice squad spot. It’s a disappointing end to largely strong summers for Zaccheaus in particular, but it feels pretty inevitable with the way things have gone in recent weeks. If that’s the case, Barner’s the fourth back and a returner, and all the intrigue that remains is whether Brian Hill or Qadree Ollison is getting that third spot at RB.