Kenjon Barner has been a pleasant surprise for the Falcons, putting together a solid campaign as a returner to this point. He’s also been banged up almost the entire time, and there’s a chance that he won’t be out there against the Titans in Week 4.
If that happens, though, Ben Kotwica has a fallback plan. Like many other Falcons fallback plans, it involves Mohamed Sanu.
Falcons special teams coach Ben Kotwica said the options if Kenjon Barner can’t come back from concussion protocol are Mo Sanu at punt return and Justin Hardy. Sheffield option on kickoff as well as Ito Smith, although Ito in concussion protocol, too.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) September 26, 2019
Sanu has returned two kicks in his career and zero punts, but is sure-handed and physical and would likely relish the opportunity to handle these. Hardy was the much-maligned punt returner a year ago—he averaged 7.4 yards per return, a full yard less than Kenjon Barner’s solid 8.5—but he has that experience and would be a solid enough one game fallback plan there. Sanu’s the headline name but I’d be surprise if the role didn’t go to Hardy when all is said and done.
At kick returner, things are a little more dynamic. Ito Smith would make a fun kick returner given his vision and shiftiness, but he may not be healthy enough to suit up as a runner, much less a returner. That would leave Sheffield, who is blazing fast at minimum, to return kicks for the week.
In other words, things are a little unpredictable heading into Sunday. Hopefully Barner can go and we don’t have these question marks, but that’s far from a sure thing.