birdz4i Posted October 29, 2015 Share Posted October 29, 2015 Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer It wouldn't be a surprise to see Justin Hardy make his Atlanta Falcons debut this Sunday.The rookie wide receiver, a fourth-round draft pick out of East Carolina, was inactive for the first seven games. Hardy vowed to remain patient and just digest the playbook until his opportunity presented itself. Well, a hamstring strain suffered by fellow receiver Leonard Hankerson might provide such an opportunity.Hankerson won't practice Wednesday and could miss a couple of games as a result of his lingering injury. If such is the case, it seems only logical for the Falcons to ease Hardy into the lineup at home against Tampa Bay, particularly with wide receiver/return specialist Devin Hester currently on short-term injured reserve with turf toe.Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has been a fan of Hardy all along and spoke up in favor of the rookie once again Tuesday during his weekly 680 The Fan radio appearance."I think he's a guy who has improved," Ryan said of Hardy. "Obviously, we'll see where [Hankerson] is at in term of getting healthy. But at some point this season, I really believe Justin's going to make an impact for our football team. And I'm excited about that. I look forward to what he can bring for us on the offensive side of the ball."Of course, Ryan will rely first on top receiver Julio Jones. Veteran Roddy White, who desired more touches, has as many catches in the last two games (six) as he did in the first four. And first-year Falcon Nick Williams, who had three catches for 43 yards in this past week's 10-7 win over the Tennessee Titans, continues to impress the coaches with his competiveness. But there should be room for Hardy to get a least a few looks on offense if Hankerson is indeed out against the Buccaneers.Hardy has a huge supporter in Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina's sixth-year head coach. McNeill frequently speaks with Hardy and said he offered no advice to his former player about how to handle being inactive."I asked him for advice because he didn't need any from me. He already knew. He's already been through it," McNeill said of his former walk-on, scout-team quarterback. "Nobody believed in him out of high school. Fayetteville State was the only one. After the first fall camp here, I said, 'That boy right there is going to be very good.' Great player. Great kid. Great family. He's waited for his turn before."And people don't realize he's not mad right now. He's watching and learning from Julio and everybody else. Once he gets in there, Matt Ryan is going to love him. Julio's going to love him because they can't double team him anymore."McNeill watched Hardy, who wore No. 2 at East Carolina, go on to set the current NCAA FBS record for career receptions with 387."He's still 'Deuce' to me," McNeill said. "If I call you by your number, that means you're pretty legit."That catch like that boy from the Giants (Odell Beckham Jr.) made, Deuce did that in practice like four years ago. He did that in a game a year and a half ago. I got catches from him in practice where one was behind his back. He didn't say nothing, either. He just caught it like he was supposed to do it, and when back to the huddle. That's just how Deuce is."Those skills should be on display to the rest of the league sooner than later.http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/17003/falcons-matt-ryan-ready-to-see-rookie-wide-receiver-justin-hardy-make-impact Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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