For those who appreciate gritty special teamers, pay attention to the Falcons' one-stop shop named Eric Weems.
It's not often a return specialist is described as having grit – usually it's more flash and dash – but he does it all for the Giants' wild-card opponent.
Standing at 5-9, 195 pounds, the fourth-year wide receiver undrafted out of Bethune-Cookman (Daytona Beach, Fla.) returns kicks, returns punts, and is second on the Falcons with 12 special teams tackles as a gunner.
His all-around effort drew comparisons to a Giants player currently on injured reserve.
"He reminds me a lot of Domenik Hixon," special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. "Just because he's the gunner, he's on kickoff team, he's got a lot of tackles, and he just seems like a great guy to have on your team. [Weems] has such a good skill set as far as returner. He's more of a running back with his elusiveness and he's tough to bring down. You'll see it takes two or three guys to take him down."
Weems was named to last year's Pro Bowl as a special teamer after returning both a punt and kickoff for touchdowns in 2010, while also racking up 14 special teams tackles. As an encore, he found the end zone again on a 102-yard kick return during the Falcons' first-round playoff loss to Green Bay last season.
Tyler Sash, who's second on the Giants with 15 special teams tackles (two behind Jacquian Williams), helped forge a unit this season that prides itself on being able to handle players like Weems with strength and physicality.
Just this week, Falcons head coach Mike Smith called them some "thumpers that can run and cover."
"We're trying to put it on film each and every week that we can run and we can hit and we're not going to be scared of anybody that we're playing," Sash said. "So we pride ourselves on being tough. We have a bunch of hardworking guys on special teams, and we take pride in our jobs."
Hardworking, yes, but also young.
It will be the first taste of postseason for a lot of the players. You often hear veterans, whose teams made the playoffs when they were young, muse on taking it for granted at the time. But with guys like Zak DeOssie, Lawrence Tynes, and Chase Blackburn on special teams, the rookies appreciate just how difficult it is to make it past New Year's.
"Being a rookie and going to the playoffs, some guys play for eight-to-10 years and don't make the playoffs," Sash said. "To be a rookie and to help contribute to a playoff team, it's exciting…I understand how hard it is just to get to the tournament just from battling this season. Each and every week is a battle. Anybody can beat anybody. That's why it's professional football. Everyone is 0-0 right now."
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