Vivlamore reporting from Flowery Branch.
Harry Douglas might get lost this season – and that’s a good thing for the Falcons offense.
The Falcons have a number of highly regarded receiving weapons at quarterback Matt Ryan’s disposal in wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez. A defense’s dilemma in trying to stop them all may well be Douglas’ opportunity.
“Teams are going to double them,” Douglas said. “I always have to be ready, no matter what. Teams can’t double all three of them. … Like coach [Mike] Smith always says ‘You have to step up to the plate and do your job.’”
Douglas will be a key component of the Falcons offense as they have often operated from three wide receiver sets during the preseason. With White and Jones being deep threats and Gonzalez working the middle of the field, the speedy Douglas can be effective on crossing patterns. Ryan has completed an NFL-high 11 passes of 20 yards or more during the Falcons three exhibition games, including one of his three touchdown passes.
“We are connecting on [long passes],” Gonzalez said. “It’s not like we are throwing them down there and not connecting. Defenses are going to have to respect that and realize that we can do it at any time. It’s going to open things up underneath.
“The more that those guys can stretch the field and let me work the middle – and with Harry on the other side – it’s a good combination. It’s a good place for us to be.”
Douglas was effective last season with 39 receptions for 498 yards and one touchdown. He had eight catches for 133 yards against the Saints on Nov. 13.
The three wide receivers worked together most of the offseason in Atlanta, at and away from team headquarters, to get better. A little friendly competition never hurts. The group worked on several drills with bragging rights on the line – at least for one day.
“I remember one day, I beat them both in drills,” Douglas said. “The next day Roddy was upset about it and the next day he came in and he won the drills. That is the type of competitiveness you want out of the group. You want guys who are going to make each other better. There is never any jealousy or envy. We want the best for one another.”
And that translate onto the playing field.
“It makes you go hard,” Douglas added. “It makes you be competitive. It makes you always want to win, never accepting losing. If you lose a game, it makes you want to win the next day.”
Douglas says he wants to improve in all phases of the game as a receiver, noting in particular to be better at yards after catch, being aware of what defenses are being called and what blitzes might be coming.
Douglas could also be used in a punt return capacity, a role he is willing to fill if called upon. Douglas has not been part of the return game during exhibition games with Dominique Franks seeing most of the action. Smith said the team is already aware of what Douglas can do as a returner.
A team player is how Douglas wants to be known. He uses the term time and again when asked about himself or his role in the offense.
“There are going to be times when I’m going to get my chances,” Douglas said. “I’m not the type of guy who is going to complain about it. I’m here to do the job, whatever they ask me to do. We have two outstanding guys in Roddy and Julio, plus Tony [Gonzalez], Michael [Turner] and Matt [Ryan]. We’ve got great guys. If we all do our job, we can do some great things.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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