The Atlanta Falcons’ OTAs wrapped up last week and head coach Arthur Smith was very pleased with what he saw from a handful of players––specifically from the new roster additions, including veteran wide receiver Damiere Byrd.
Smith rambled some names to the local media that impressed during the voluntary team workouts which included, quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, wide receivers Dameire Byrd and KhaDarel Hodge, offensive lineman Germain Ifedi and safety Dean Marlowe.
While all names mentioned by Smith are great to hear, the two that stick out the most are Byrd and Hodge.
Since the Falcons are in need of a true receiving corpse, it’s especially good to hear that the veteran wideouts are doing well.
But the offseason has just begun.
Mandatory minicamp kicks off this week from Tuesday, June 14 to Friday, June 16, which means they still have a lot more to prove. No to mention July and August, when the players are in full pads.
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Byrd Brings Stability to Falcons’ WR Room
Byrd, a product of the University of South Carolina, originally went undrafted in 2015.
However, a neighboring NFL team, the Carolina Panthers, signed him to their practice squad, which is where he spent his entire rookie season. It was a good year for Carolina as a whole as they made it to the Super Bowl, but Byrd didn’t get a chance to play a part in the team’s success that ultimately ended in a 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos.
The following season, Byrd made the 53-man roster, although he still didn’t see much playing time until 2017. Despite bouncing off and on injured reserve that year, he broke a franchise record by returning a 103-yard kickoff against the Bucs in Week 16, which also resulted in Carolina’s first kickoff-return TD since 2011. The impressive touchdown earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
The 29-year-old entered 2018 as the team’s lead punt returner but his season was, once again, cut short after breaking his arm for the second time. The Cardinals picked him up as a 2019 free agent and he spent a single season, where he recorded a career-high 32 watched for 359 yards and a touchdown.
The next year, Byrd found himself on a one-year deal with New England where he logged an even better season of 47 catches for 609 yards and a touchdown. He landed another single-season deal with Chicago in 2021 as a reserve, catching 26 catches for 329 yards and a touchdown.
If he doesn’t become a day 1 starter for the Falcons by the end of training camp, he’ll at least add some nice depth in the wideout room.
Hodge Is an Interesting Signing
Hodge, 27, originally signed with the Los Angeles Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2018.
Since then, he’s bounced around the league with stops at the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. In four seasons so far, he has 30 receptions for 430 yards. More recently, he’s coming off a 2021 season that saw a career-high of 13 catches on 27 targets for 157 yards in Detroit.
Similar to Byrd, Hodge could just end up as a backup to whoever gets the #1, #2 and #3 options and then play a larger role on special teams much like his past.
But if he’s catching Smith’s eyes early, then there could be some untapped potential in him that’s waiting to shine.
Either way, it’s still too early to tell and offseason training has only just begun!
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