WR-RS Eric Weems’ departure this offseason left the Falcons with a glaring void on kick returns and special-teams coverage units.
Weems, who signed with the Bears in March, made the All-Pro team as a special-teamer in 2010 and set the bar high for the players in the mix to succeed him. The Falcons have established the top candidates to replace Weems, but they are going to hold a training-camp competition for the return jobs and will reevaluate the contenders as it plays out.
WR Harry Douglas, backup CB Dominique Franks and undrafted rookie WR James Rodgers are candidates to handle punt returns, and special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong has indicated RB Antone Smith is being considered for kickoff-return duties.
Since the number of kickoff returns declined significantly after rule changes were implemented before last season, finding Weems’ replacement on punts will be the primary concern for Armstrong as camp gets underway.
Douglas is the only top contender with NFL experience returning kicks. He made 19 punt returns, including a 61-yard return for a touchdown, during his rookie season in 2008.
Follow Dan Parr on Twitter