Camp Battles ’10: Special Teams
The Falcons will have an open competition at the kicker position. Matt Bryant is expected to be the frontrunner, but he will be pushed by Steven Hauschka.
Bryant has the experience which likely gives him the edge since the Falcons would like to avoid any inconsistency at the position. But Hauschka has the bigger leg and longer range. The problem is that he has not been particularly effective in clutch kicking situations and showed a tendency to miss some fairly easy kicks last year in Baltimore, leading to his release. But Hauschka also has the added advantage of being 10 years younger than Bryant.
The Falcons will have options, and will likely go with the more consistent of the two. More than likely, the team will alternate them in preseason games to maximize their opportunities.
At punter, Michael Koenen’s job is safe. And while Hauschka was an effective kickoff guy for two years in Baltimore, he doesn’t like he’ll be a serious challenge to Koenen even if he wins the job over Bryant. Joe Zelenka’s job as long snapper appears safe after a good last month of the season in 2009.
The return situation will also feature some heavy competition. Eric Weems is the incumbent returner, and while he may lack explosive speed to really get a lot of big plays, he is fairly consistent with his ability to give the team good field position. Jerious Norwood has more explosive speed on kickoffs, but the team may feel his value on offense makes Weems more desirable there. As a punt returner in 2008, Harry Douglas was fairly good. But he didn’t show the most reliable set of hands and coming off an ACL injury it doesn’t seem like he’ll have that same explosive burst. Dominique Franks will get an opportunity as well. He doesn’t have great speed, but if he can show he can be a reliable set of hands and show some big play potential there, he has a shot to unseat Weems.