The Falcons haven’t leaned on Kenjon Barner very heavily on offense to this point—he has one target, one reception, and four yards—but he has been the team’s primary returner. The fact that he’s been declared out for Week 4 against the Titans leaves Atlanta needing to find new solutions before Sunday.
We’ve already covered the options at returner, where Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy are in the mix to return punts and Kendall Sheffield and Ito Smith have been mentioned as candidates to return kicks. My early expectation is that you’ll see Hardy handle punts and Ito handle kicks—he’s going to play this week, which is nice to see—but realistically we likely won’t know until Sunday. It’s worth noting that the team has toyed with having Ito handle kicks in the past and Hardy has actual punt return experience for the Falcons, though.
On the offensive side of things, Ito Smith’s fresh out of the concussion protocol and Barner’s not up, which means we’ll see either Brian Hill or Qadree Ollison for the first time this week. My money’s on Hill, who had the stronger preseason overall and was the first guy the Falcons put in mothballs in August, but again we won’t know for certain until Sunday. Whoever is up is likely to have a larger role than Barner in the offense, but will still be in line for just 2-5 touches if Ito is healthy enough for his usual workload.