Falcons running back Kenjon Barner was officially named the team’s kickoff and punt returner by special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica on Thursday.
“He’s got dual return experience,” Kotwica said of Barner.
Barner had to beat out Marcus Green, who was released, and wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus during the exhibition season. Ito Smith, Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy have also been working out as returners.
Barner, who was signed as free agent after playing with New England and Carolina last season, has 37 career punt returns for 288 yards and 31 career kickoff returns for 719 yards. Barner played with Carolina in 2013, Philadelphia 2013-217. He has two Super Bowl rings.
When asked what he expected, Kotwica quipped, “Production, maybe a couple of touchdowns on Sunday.”
Barner will replace Marvin Hall, who was the kickoff returner last season, and Hardy, who was the punt returner.
“Kenjon has been great,” Kotwica said. “He’s a professional. He caught a lot of balls for us, not only off the foot and but off the jugs (machine) both in the kickoff game and in the (punt) return game.”
Kotwica, who was formerly with the Redskins, was familiar with Barner’s work with the Eagles. Both teams play in the NFC East.
“I’m excited to see what he’s going to end up doing for us,” Kotwica said.
Also, Kotwica said that kicker Matt Bryant and his holder Matt Bosher and long snapper Josh Harris got on the same page quickly.
“It was kind of like riding a bike,” Kotwica said. “Maybe like two snaps and things were rolling. The note on that is the compliment to Bosher. He held for the lefty (Giorgio Tavecchio) and then he had to go to the right side. That’s not as easy to do as it may look.”
Bryant kicked on Wednesday and is set to kick on Friday.
“He did an excellent job,” Kotwica said. “So, we’re excited about what he is bringing to the team.”
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