Opportunity in Crisis: Perfect Time for Young WR’s to Shine
We all know the news and it’s not good. Even though we don’t yet know the severity of the injury to our young, promising team-playing character wide receiver (which is the exact opposite of you know who), its time to analyze where Dimitroff, Smith, and us as fans can look for opportunity in crisis. Harry Douglas epitomizes what’s best about hard work and toughness. Douglas came in as a rookie receiver and never backed down from day one, even going as far as getting in a tussle with All-Pro safety Lawyer Milloy. Douglas wowed Falcons fans with his speed, tenacity, and amazing play-making ability as a rookie, and even exciting many with the prospect of little drop-off if White continues his holdout. #83 will be perfectly fine regardless of the injury due to his mental toughness, character, and superb work ethic.
Great Chance for Some
The NFL and football in general is a physical sport that assumes injuries will happen and the teams that respond best to them are the ones that persevere and flourish. The trading of Laurent Robinson, holdout of Roddy White, and injury to Harry Douglas has quickly reduced one of our biggest strengths to a potential weakness. In crisis lies great opportunity, and the teams who win championships will find a way to develop, push, or sign players to fill the gap. Michael Jenkins proved to be a solid and dependable receiver that’s a big target for Matt Ryan. Assuming Roddy White continues his holdout, than that elevates Brian Finneran to starting status. If he can stay healthy, Finneran has shown to have great hands and move the chains. Which leaves a ton of guys with a golden opportunity to break out, earn a spot, and prove they belong.
Who’s in at WR #5…..WR #4……Slot WR?
The fairly unexpected trade of Laurent Robinson to the Rams not only sent some shockwaves through the Falcons fan base, but it also created another roster spot at wide receiver. After having an extremely productive rookie year in undesirable a condition, Robinson had an injury filled year last year and was replaced with Harry Douglas, who ended up having an excellent season as a rookie working in the slot. Since he obviously had ability, speculation came about that he fell out of favor with the new coaching staff and, reportedly, wouldn’t go across the middle or was a big fan of blocking in Coach Mularkey’s gritty offensive play calling. Even though it was originally for a backup position, the fight for a wide receiver spot, or spots, looks to be one of the fiercest of camp, with someone having a chance of making a serious name for themselves. Coach Smith and Co. have brought in a ton of exciting, mostly tall talent to let them duke it out and may the best man win. A look at the candidates now vying for a potential slot, 4th, or 5th wide receiver position:
Eric Weems – #14
NFL Experience – 1 year
Signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2007 from Bethune-Cookman
Height – 5′9, Weight – 191
2008 Stats – 1 Rec, 4 Yds
Bio – Spent the first 15 games on the Falcons practice squad before seeing his first NFL action in the season finale against the Seattle Seahawks (12/30). Spent 2008 on practice squad until he was added to active roster on 11/19/08. Recorded career highs in receptions (62), receiving yards (864) and touchdowns (nine) as a senior in 2006 and tallied the sixth-most touchdowns scored in a single season in MEAC history (10). Known as solid on special teams. Would be shortest WR on roster.
Aaron Kelly – #15
Rookie – Clemson
Height – 6′5, Weight – 203 (listed at 196 coming out in draft)
2008 Stats – 67 Rec, 722 Yds, 4 TDs; Career – 232 Rec, 2,733 Yds, 20 TDs
Bio – Hometown product from Walton High School; Started all four years at Clemson. Graduated as the school record-holder for career touchdown receptions (20), breaking Glen Smith’s 57 year old TD reception record. Named a second-team All-ACC selection in 2008 and earned first-team all-conference honors from the Associated Press in 2007. Mentioned several times in mini-camp by coaching staff. Very light weight for tall frame, may have trouble getting off NFL level jams.
Darren Mougey – #16
Rookie – San Diego St.
Height – 6′6, Weight – 230
2008 Stats – 34 Rec, 437 Yds, 4 TDs
Bio – Served as a quarterback and wide receiver at San Diego State. In 2008, he finished third on the Aztec’s in receiving with 34 receptions for 437 yards and four touchdowns. His career receiving totals include 66 receptions for 805 yards (12.2 avg.) and six touchdowns. Reportedly ran a 4.53 40-time. Could be great red-zone threat with size and speed. Maybe a reason he wasn’t drafted in any of the seven rounds.
Brandon Godfrey – #17
Rookie – Utah
Height – 6′3 Weight – 201
2008 Stats – 56 Rec, 556 Yds, 4 TDs
Bio – Caught 128 receptions for 1,440 yards (11.3 avg.) and eight touchdowns in 36 career games at the University of Utah. Godfrey’s 128 career receptions are tied for the seventh-most all-time at Utah and also finished second on the team in catches in both 2007 and ‘08. Ran a 4.45 40-time. Signed on June 3rd as undrafted rookie free agent. Big, tall, and fast. Not signed when all other undrafted rookie free agents were inked.
Troy Bergeron – #11
NFL Experience – 1 yr
Height – 6′2 Weight – 190
Arena Football Stats – 328 Rec, 4,335 Yds, 96 TDs
Bio – Competed with the Georgia Force of the AFL for three seasons. In his Force career, tallied 328 receptions for 4,335 yards and 96 touchdowns while adding 1,416 kickoff return yards. He was named the AFL Rookie of the Year in 2005 and was a second-team All-Arena selection in 2007. In 2006, signed by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent and following his release after training camp, was signed by the Buffalo Bills to the practice squad in Week 13 of the regular season.
Chandler Williams – #18
NFL Experience – 1 yr
Height – 5′11 Weight – 178
Florida International Stats – 203 Rec, 2,519 Yds,
Bio – Originally selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round (233rd overall) in the 2007 NFL Draft. Released by the Vikings following training camp and was signed to the Miami Dolphins practice squad where he spent the entire season. Waived by the Dolphins on April 25, 2008. Signed by the Falcons as a free agent on April 29, 2008
Six guys competing for one…..two…..three spots should be a fierce competition. Seemingly, the rookies (Kelly, Mougey, Godfrey) would have the biggest advantages since they are the youngest and received the least NFL-level coaching experience. On the flip side, Weems, Williams, and Bergeron might have a leg up since they’ve all either been on an active roster or practice squad and they know the ropes and expectations better than the rookies. Williams in particular seems to be having a very good camp.
Roddy White’s holdout seemed to garner many fans objectivity with concern or sympathy that he deserves a new deal and that he may be a victim of a flawed system in the NFL. However, the combination of news that White’s agent looks to be stonewalling for Fitzgerald money, an injury to an up and coming wide receiver, and the fact that White remains the only big name player to be holding out (when Demarcus Ware and Shawn Merriman are in the same boat), seems to be pushing him into resentment territory with many fans. In fact Dimitroff may completely be in the wrong, but fans are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt after what he has done to the Falcons roster and rewarding hard working players. A look at New England’s Super Bowl winning team wide receivers may indicate that White’s days as a Falcon may become limited if he continues his stance:
Super Bowl Champion New England Patriot Wide Receivers:
2003 & 2004
Dimitroff, Smith, and Falcons fans may not need a $10 million dollar wide receiver after all.
Notable Available Free Agent Wide Receivers: