It's been a long time since Jacquizz Rodgers returned a kick in a meaningful game, but he feels like he's been preparing to do so all his life.
Through two games this preseason, Rodgers has been the first to return kicks and he currently sits at the top of the depth chart for the Falcons kick returner.
In college, the Falcons running back never returned a kick, but he frequently worked on it in practices. Now in the NFL, he's getting his first real shot to serve his team in that role. In a year that expects to see Rodgers get more involved in the offense, the running back is glad to have yet another opportunity to play a significant role for Atlanta.
"It's another chance to get the ball in your hands to make a play," Rodgers said. "It's a better opportunity for me to make a play."
Against the Bengals last week, Falcons head coach Mike Smith said he and the special teams staff were focusing on getting more return yards in the return game. They accomplished that, averaging 23.8 yards in their five returns. It's something Rodgers and special teams worked on all week last week in preparation for the second game of the preseason.
"We had some things on special teams that we needed to fix and that was one of them," Rodgers said on Saturday. "We went in and practiced, fixed it and had a chance to get some open holes and return a couple."
Incidentally, while cornerback Dominique Franks is listed as the backup kick returner, a lot of Rodgers' competition during camp at the position has come from his brother James. Jacquizz said competing against his brother in the professional ranks isn't all that different from anything they've gone at against each other in their life together.
"We've been competing against each other all our life," Jacquizz said. "It's something to help push one another. If I get a ball and get out to the 35, he's going to try to top it. It's a friendly competition."