In need of a bounce-back season, the Atlanta Falcons got their 2014 campaign off to a solid start with an overtime win against their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints. The Falcons showed signs of that high-powered offense they were hoping to have last year, but injuries prevented from coming together. Now, Atlanta has everyone healthy and while Julio Jones and Roddy White are leading the way, a few unexpected starts took the spotlight in the Week 1 win.
The Falcons signed Devin Hester off the free agent market after the Chicago Bears opted to let him go. Hester is arguably the greatest return man in NFL history, but many forget that he began his career as a wide receiver. After having little to no offensive impact with Chicago at the position over the past few years, Hester started off his Atlanta tenure looking more like a pass catcher than return man.
Hester finished second in receiving against the Saints with 99 yards off five catches. Hester came up with two clutch first-down catches to extend drives looking a lot more comfortable as a wide receiver than many expected him to. However, according to offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, this type of play was expected by Hester.
"I must admit when Devin came, just because he didn't play much receiver for Chicago last year, in my own mind, we were getting a great return guy," Koetter said, via ESPN.com, "and he's far exceeded my expectations as a wide receiver. Excellent ball skills; very quick in and out of his breaks; a really good route runner for a guy who's not known as a wide receiver. So, Devin will definitely have a role on offense."
Another emerging star for the Falcons is second-year tight end, Levine Toilolo. Drafted as the potential replacement to Tony Gonzalez, Toilolo looked the part on Sunday as he put up 19 yards on three catches including one touchdown. The Falcons have had big plans for Toilolo ever since he measured in a 6-foot-8. The young tight end proved he could handle being a redzone target and will continue as such.
"I don't know if I'm the answer,'' Toilolo said. "The coaches, that's their area. Once we really start actually game-planning, we'll kind of have more things called up. I think that's definitely somewhere -- as an offense, period -- the red zone is somewhere where you want to be really efficient. That's somewhere we really want to improve, especially with the weapons we have. We can find some mismatches down there. And I'm sure Matt will find the mismatches.''
Right now, Hester is a major waiver wire pickup for Week 2. Ryan clearly has chemistry with the veteran receiver and will utilize it. However, it is hard to full invest in anyone not named Jones or White. Jones put up 116 yards while White had 72 yards and a touchdown. Those two will continue being top dog, but if Hester, Harry Douglas or Toilolo are available, it would not hurt any roster to take one of them on.