Vivlamore reporting from Falcons training camp.
FLOWERY BRANCH – They’ve got a chance to be special – and they know it.
“It could be really exciting,” White said.
“The sky is the limit,” Jones added.
The White-Jones dynamic duo was fifth in yards by wideouts in the NFL last season. They combined for 2,255 receiving yards. They trailed only the Giants’ Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks (2,728 yards), the Lions’ Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson (2,438), the Steelers’ Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown (2,301) and the Patriots’ Wes Welker and Deion Branch (2,271).
White had 100 receptions for 1,296 yards (eighth in the NFL) and eight touchdowns last season. In his rookie season, Jones had 54 receptions for 959 yards (24th in the NFL) and eight touchdowns despite missing three games and most of two others with hamstring issues.
“It just helps all of us,” White said of the opposition having to scheme against two threats. “The more plays he makes out there, they can’t double us all. If I go out there and do my thing, it will open things up for Harry [Douglas]. We have to keep all our playmakers on the field. I just want to be in [three wide receiver set] all day long, but I’m not the offensive coordinator. The more weapons we have out there, the more opportunities we have to make plays.”
The two can’t be compared to the likes of Steeler greats John Stallworth and Lynn Swann, both in the Hall of Fame with four Super Bowl rings. However, they have a chance to continue to put up some impressive numbers while they are together. White is an established veteran, entering his ninth season. He has gone over 1,000 yards receiving each of the past five seasons and is the franchise leader in receiving yards. Although Jones is in his second year, he has the benefit of a full offseason. It’s a luxury he did not have last season due to the NFL lockout.
Cris Carter and Randy Moss played together for four seasons with the Vikings from 1998-2001 – Carter’s last four and Moss’ first four with the team. Each made three Pro Bowls and the combined for 93 touchdowns.
“We have to win some Super Bowls before we can get compared to those two guys,” quarterback Matt Ryan of any comparison to Stallworth and Swann. “But I think we can be really good. Really, very good. The two of them together are extremely unselfish. They just want to win and want to make plays. They push each other to get better. I think it’s a unique relationship that they have. I think they can be as good as anybody in the league.”
Each knows there are areas for improvement.
In seven seasons White has 530 receptions for 7,374 yards and 45 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl three straight seasons (2008-10) and was a first-team All Pro in 2010 when he led the NFL with 115 receptions. Yet he quickly pointed out that he led the league in drops last season.
Jones had a broken left foot at the scouting combine before the draft. When they NFL finally opened for business he was rushed to learn the playbook and all that goes with being a professional football player. Jones was then plagued by hamstring problems and missed most or all of five games in seven weeks in October and November.
“I don’t think I did that great last year,” Jones said. “I started coming on at the end because me and Matt [Ryan] started getting our timing down. I feel real good with the offense now.”
A Pro Bowl selection is not a concern for each receiver. Those are individual accolades, they say. They are here to win. The Falcons are 0-for-3 in the playoffs in the past four seasons.
I’m motivated,” White said. “Every year, if we don’t win a playoff game, I feel like it’s something I did wrong. I’m just trying to win games and find ways to get us over the hump.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog