- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Fans have caught glimpses of Devin Hester's unique return ability throughout training camp, but the real action begins Friday night when the Atlanta Falcons host the Miami Dolphins in preseason action.
Until then, arguably the greatest return man of all time will continue to get adjusted to his new teammates and the new blockers in front him.
"It's kind of hard right now because the bullets ain't flying,'' Hester said. ``But from looking at film and knowing the guys, we've got some dogs out there. I would say that Antone [Smith] is solid, always-in-the-right-position type guy.
``And see, we've got 0-linemen out there blocking. We've got Gabe Carimi and guys out there on kickoff return back there blocking. You're used to DBs, safeties, smaller guys. Now, we've got a bigger unit. That's a good thing for me. ... It reminds me of back in the day, my first two years [in Chicago], with the way we had our special teams run."
Hester set an NFL record with 18 combine kick-return scores while with the Bears. As dynamic as he was, Hester would be the first to acknowledge the great blocking and scheme he had in Chicago under special teams coordinator Dave Toub. And Hester had a Pro Bowl blocker in front of him in Brendon Ayanbadejo.
Hester once again has an outstanding special teams coach in Keith Armstrong. And Armstrong has the utmost respect for Hester.
``I tell you what: You get away with more mistakes with a guy with that type of speed who's exceptional and can make some people miss and can wiggle,'' Armstrong said. ``What we have to be prepared for is they're not going to kick it to you anymore. That's what starts happening.''
Right now, it's about developing the blockers in front of Hester.
``That's the biggest, biggest key,'' Armstrong said. ``The thing you have to realize is he had a great corps in Chicago. So it is imperative that we develop. He's a talented guy. Extremely talented. But he had some good work around him. So it's imperative that we develop our guys and they understand, `Hey look: We're all in this thing.' It's going to take the group. It's not going to be one of these where, Ok, they punt the ball and, `All right, Devin. Let's see what you've got.' It doesn't work that way.''
Armstrong singled out a few players who are capable blockers.
``I tell you a guy that we picked up that obviously will help us is [Courtney] Roby,'' Armstrong said. ``I think Courtney has done a great job for us. And he brings a great attitude; professional. He's tough and he can run.
``Antone, obviously, has done a great job for us. He's going to contribute and be a winner. Robert McClain will contribute and be a winner for us on teams. Probably won't get a chance to get Joplo Bartu or (Paul) Worrilow. But I think [Tim] Dobbins would be a good pickup because he can run and hit.''
Armstrong will continue to mix and match until he finds the right combinations.
``There are some veteran guys who will be in that mix,'' Armstrong said. ``If we can get a good flow of the young guys to come in and create a solid core, now you've got a chance to go get something done.''