One of the lesser talked about open holes on the Atlanta Falcons roster is their return specialist role. Kenjon Barner held that down last year, but it’s clear at this point that Barner will not return. Who gets the gig, then?
Dan Quinn didn’t say, exactly, but he made it clear on Monday morning who the early favorite is to secure the job.
Dan Quinn says Brandon Powell is the "leader in the clubhouse" for the #Falcons kick return role.— William McFadden (@willmcfadden) April 20, 2020
Powell spent 2018 with the Detroit Lions before being signed to the Falcons’ practice squad prior to the start of the 2019 regular season. While at the University of Florida, Powell played both running back and wide receiver and totaled 33 kick returns for 671 yards and 17 punt returns for 61 yards, no touchdowns for either.
This statement is likely an indication that running back Kenjon Barner who the Falcons allowed to enter free agency last month and is still available, won’t be back. Barner was actually impressive in his one season as the Falcons’ return specialist, leading the team with 35 punt returns for 267 yards and a touchdown, and 17 kick returns for 406 yards.
In Week 11 of the 2019 season, against the Carolina Panthers, he had a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown in the 29–3 victory, earning NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Additionally, Barner was one of five Falcons elected as a Pro Bowl alternate for the NFC team.
With the 2020 NFL Draft only days away, it’s also possible that the Falcons could look at a young player to compete with Powell for return duties. But for now, head coach Dan Quinn sounds confident that Powell is the guy, giving him an early leg up on both that competition and the WR6 job.