It’s an annual pastime. Every year, some free agent players - usually at wide receiver or running back - stands out in camp and we all begin to wonder whether XYZ guy has a shot of making the roster. Whether it was “Amsterdam” or Speedy Reedy, there’s always a guy in camp that seems to make the most of his opportunity.
It’s not as if it hasn’t worked out, either. Bernard Reedy did land on the Falcons roster. Guys like Nick Williams and Marvin Hall stuck on the roster for a few years each, contributing periodically. There’s a good reason to think a young, undrafted receiver has a shot of making the roster.
What about this year, though? The Falcons have several young receivers that have stood out in camp and in the first preseason game. Surely one of them has a shot? Well, that depends on what the team thinks about veteran Justin Hardy.
At this point, it appears that five of the six potential wide receiver spots are taken. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu are absolute locks. Russell Gage has really looked good in camp and is a big special teams contributor. Marcus Green was just drafted in the sixth round and has been getting a ton of looks at the returner spot. He may not be a “lock” per se, but it would be surprising to see the team move on from him.
But what about Justin Hardy? He was initially allowed to hit free agency before coming back and signing a minimal one year contract. That alone should tell us the team is not banking on him for the long term, but it may not mean it’s time to write him off either.
Sticking with Hardy
If one of the new guys is going to unseat Hardy, they’re going to have an uphill battle doing so. First off, Hardy has been a sure-handed receiver since he joined the team several years ago. He also has the advantage of having a ton of familiarity with Matt Ryan, which can’t be undersold. He’s not a flashy or explosive receiver, but he always seems to make contributions every year. Finally, while the team did only bring him back on a one-year deal, they did bring him back. Justin may be an insurance policy, but he’s one the team is familiar with.
Moving on to a young guy
The thing about Hardy is that he isn’t particularly fast or explosive, while some of the guys in camp have shown more in that regard. Additionally, Hardy has mostly flamed out as a returner, giving a small opening to someone like Olamide Zaccheaus, who has been getting looks as a returner during camp. While Hardy has been consistent, that also speaks to a lack of upside. We know who he is and he’s probably not going to get significantly better at this point. Some of these young guys are far more intriguing and their potential to grow may be too much for the team to pass up.
What do you think? Is Justin Hardy a potential surprise cut to make room for one of the young guys? Vote in our poll below.
Who will be WR6 for the Falcons in 2019?
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