Falcons' Raheem Morris: Justin Hardy toughest receiver in the room

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Justin Hardy has generated a lot of praise this offseason, but his position coach gave him the ultimate compliment this week.

Receivers coach Raheem Morris, who moved over from the defensive side of the ball, is all about teaching an attack mentality. Morris believes Hardy personifies that approach.

"He's absolutely, without a doubt in my mind, the toughest, most competitive guy with elite hands in our unit," Morris said of Hardy.

But what about All-Pro Julio Jones?

"It doesn't matter," Morris continued. "All those guys, we talk about it all the time. [Hardy's] competitive and tough nature make him just a dynamic guy, character-wise and everything."

Jones certainly won't be offended by Morris' words. He often praises Hardy's work ethic and ability. The same comes from quarterback Matt Ryan, who last April noted how Hardy stood out during offseason workouts in South Florida.

Recently, coach Dan Quinn singled out Hardy's performance during OTAs, and fellow wide receiver Mohamed Sanu raved about Hardy's offseason showing.

"Justin Hardy's been looking phenomenal right now," Sanu said. "He's running great routes, catching the balls, in the weight room working his tail off. ... The work he's putting in is great."

All of it is humbling to Hardy, a former fourth-round draft pick from East Carolina.

"It feels good to know your peers think such things about you," Hardy said. "It just makes me want to go even harder not to let my brothers down, no matter the circumstances."

Hardy heads into his third season with 42 catches -- 21 in back-to-back seasons -- for 397 yards and four touchdowns, with three drops on 68 career targets. He had 11 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the final six games of the 2016 regular season, and nine of those catches went for first downs. In the playoffs, Hardy had two catches for 18 yards and two first downs on two targets in the divisional-round win over Seattle. He followed with no catches in the NFC Championship Game triumph over Green Bay despite running 10 routes. And he played just five offensive snaps in the Super Bowl and ran just one route with no targets, partly a product of the Falcons running 20 less plays than normal.

Hardy also has been a major contributor on special teams, and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong would be the first to say Hardy is willing to sacrifice his body to make a key block. Armstrong also utilizes Hardy in the return game, although the Falcons signed Andre Roberts this offseason to potentially handle those duties. The Falcons also have receiver/returner Devin Fuller back after he missed his entire rookie year with a shoulder injury.

For Hardy, his goal for this season is simple.

"Being even more consistent," he said.

Those around him certainly believe Hardy can accomplish that.