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 Post subject: Antione Smith as returner?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:19 am 
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Antone Smith a Darkhorse for Return Responsibilities?
Jay Adams
Published July 30, 2012 at 7:09 PM

Running back Antone Smith laughs when he thinks back on all his punt and kick return experience.

Probably because there isn’t much of it.

Save for two games during his freshman year at Florida State, the fourth-year Falcon hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire with his return game. But that could all change if Smith has the type of camp and preseason he’s hoping for.

Smith, who came out of Florida State with blazing 4.3 40-yard speed, has integrated himself into the return game since coming on with the Falcons in 2009. While Smith admits that experience isn’t exactly his strong suit at the return positions, he’s got speed, quickness, vision and a load of other skills that help contribute to his viability as a return candidate.

“I’m going to take it and run with it, I’ll tell you that,” Smith said Monday. “Anything I put my head to, I really can accomplish, so I look forward to it.”

Aside from vying for the returner positions, Smith was an extremely valuable special teamer for the Falcons in 2011. Overshadowed by Eric Weems and Akeem Dent, Smith was just as much a vital part of the Big Four — that is, punt, punt return, kick and kick return — as anyone else on the team.

And he played all with relative ease and confidence, something he’s thinking will help him in his quest to retain the No. 4 running back spot on the 53-man roster.

“Experience has been a big key for me,” Smith said. “My first year and in 2010, I was pretty good, but last year I came on and got along pretty good and got a little more experience under my belt and got more comfortable. I felt I excelled at it.”

Likely to the point where Smith has earned a shot to show what he can do at returner. Head coach Mike Smith has his hands full with that decision down the road and stressed that there would be a lot of different players getting an opportunity to show themselves in the return game, but did say Smith would be in the mix.

“Antone is an interesting dynamic for us on special teams, because he’s such a good cover guy, he’s such a good blocker, but he’s also got the speed to be a returner,” Mike Smith said Monday. “The thing we’ll have to do is, through training camp, we’re going to have to find out who can do the returning — the first, the second and the third guy. You’ve got to have at least three guys that you feel comfortable doing it. We’ve got some guys that are starters (elsewhere) that we’ve got to make decisions on … and if we want to have starters doing that.”

Which could make Antone Smith a good candidate for the sought-after position.

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 Post subject: Re: Antione Smith as returner?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:55 am 
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It isn't mentioned much on here, but the Falcons special teams need to be more "special" this season for us to succeed as well. Smitty likes to play the field position game as we all know....we need big kick off/punt returns at the right moments....

All the talk is about being "explosive" on offense, but we need some "explosive" plays by the ST as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Antione Smith as returner?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 12:10 pm 
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Quote:
“The thing we’ll have to do is, through training camp, we’re going to have to find out who can do the returning — the first, the second and the third guy. You’ve got to have at least three guys that you feel comfortable doing it. We’ve got some guys that are starters (elsewhere) that we’ve got to make decisions on … and if we want to have starters doing that.”


I hate when starters have to return kicks or punts, b/c it opens them up to so many injuries. Ie. Dallas and punt returner Dez Bryant, who keeps getting hurt doing it, but they still plan to use him there this year (nugget - did anyone know he only has 1 100 yard game in his career??). Then they're gonna be stupid enough to let fragile Felix Jones return kicks. Those dudes have a hard enough time performing consistently and well at their home positions.

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 Post subject: Re: Antione Smith as returner?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 1:07 pm 
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I don't think Smith is the darkhorse at all. I think he's the favorite. If he doesn't impress, and there isn't someone else out there like James Rodgers that runs away with it, you can definitely expect the team to sign a WR that can return kicks. They should have done this in the off-season by going after Jacoby Jones, Roscoe Parrish, among others when they became available. Complacency is a bitch.

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 Post subject: Re: Antione Smith as returner?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 1:30 pm 
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They should have done this in the off-season by going after Jacoby Jones, Roscoe Parrish, among others when they became available


Expensive role/special team players. No?

Smith = 540,000 per
Jones = 3.25 Mill per
Parrish = 700,000 per (inexpensive, but he kinda sucks)


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 Post subject: Re: Antione Smith as returner?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 2:49 pm 
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It's called an insurance policy. So that you know if Smith or another doesn't win the job, you have someone that at least has some experience and can be competent with the job.

And no, they aren't expensive role players. Jacoby Jones only costs the Ravens $1.6 million in cap space this year ($4M of the $6.5M in his 2-yr. deal is next year's base salary + roster bonus). That's the same price that Will Svitek costs this team currently, and a little less than Peria Jerry ($1.95M), Harry Douglas ($2M), and Matt Bryant ($2M), and slightly more than Snelling ($1.06M) and Vance Walker ($1.26M). If Jones proved to be a competent to good return man, wouldn't that be worth it for one year. Obviously, whether he's worth committing $4.9M in cap space to in 2013 is a completely different question with a completely different answer (which is no, unless he proves to be a reliable deep threat/No. 3 WR).

But whether it's Jones, Parrish, Eddie Royal, Domenik Hixon, Michael Spurlock, Louis Rankin, Lorenzo Booker, Mewelde Moore, Steve Slaton, Patrick Cobbs, Yamon Figurs, Courtney Roby, Tiquan Underwood, or Johnnie Lee Higgins, IMO the Falcons should have kicked the tires on at least one of those names to come into camp and compete for the job. Ideally, you would whichever of those players that would play for the veteran minimum and no signing bonus (unlikely to be Jones or Royal in that regard)

Now if Smith or whoever runs away with the spot then good for them. And if that veteran player isn't better than the likes of Kevin Cone, James Rodgers or Kenny Stafford then you cut him. You've lost nothing in the equation. If he is better than them, then you've actually found a way to improve your roster.

But god forbid this team found some way to free up an extra $700,000 and leave Dawson Zimmerman without a job just to provide a little bit more peace of mind on special teams... :roll:

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