Special Teams, Not Catches, Crucial to Picking No. 5 WR

Special Teams, Not Catches, Crucial to Picking No. 5 WR

Jay Adams

Published July 30, 2012 at 12:33 PM

You’ll read it nearly every day if you’re on Twitter: “Kevin Cone just made a great catch,” or “James Rodgers is really quick off the ball and runs nice routes.”

It may lead some to believe that those abilities have created front-runners for the race at the No. 5 wide receiver position, but the truth is, the person who earns that position will be much more adept at special teams than running routes and catching passes.

“In our scheme and who we have at tight end, we won’t be in too many four wide sets,” head coach Mike Smith said during the weekend. “The fifth receiver would be put in the ball game because of injuries. The majority of his snaps will be played on special teams. It will be heavily weighted towards his production on special teams.”

Knowing this, Cone, Rodgers and other contenders — Drew Davis, Tim Toone, Kenny Stafford, Marcus Jackson and Michael Calvin — are focused on really shining during the usual 20-minute period before the start of practice devoted to special teams.

That’s why Cone goes all out during punt block drills, why Rodgers takes every punt return like it’s the real thing, why Toone — just added days ago and likely behind the rest of his teammates at the position — likely feels fortunate to be in the mix at the punt return spot.

“I think special teams is very important because every guy that comes into the National Football League, they have to play special teams,” Rodgers said. “I’m just doing whatever they need me to do, and if that’s going down there and covering kicks, blocking kicks, returning balls, then that’s what I have to do to make the team.”

If there is a front-runner at this stage of the game, however, Cone could probably be considered it, simply based on his past. Cone was signed as an undrafted free agent after 2011 Russell Athletic Atlanta Falcons Training Camp started and earned a spot on the practice squad before eventually being signed to the active roster late in the season and participating on special teams — particularly the kickoff coverage team.

With that experience, it could translate to a better understanding of his responsibilities and what he needs to do to earn that No. 5 position outright.

“I think it carries over a lot. I learned a lot about myself and learned what I need to do to put myself at the next level as far as depth chart and my abilities on the field on special teams,” Cone said. “I think I learned a lot and it’s going to correlate a lot to the field this year.”

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