Roddy White was Atlanta’s leading WR last season — but he also led the NFL in a category no wideout likes: drops.
FLOWERY BRANCH — Roddy White and Julio Jones believe they can become the NFL’s top receiving duo.
That’s not to say White and Jones are promising that success will come easily.
The Atlanta Falcons’ offense is still a work in progress.
“Every year, I feel like if we don’t win a playoff game, there’s something I did wrong and there’s more I’ve got to do,” White said. “I’m just trying to find ways to win games and get us over the hump.”
Entering his eighth season, White has reached several personal goals:
-- In December, he became the eighth NFL receiver to catch at least 80 passes for 1,000 yards receiving in five consecutive years.
-- He has led the NFC in catches for the past two seasons and has played in five straight Pro Bowls.
-- White is the Falcons’ career-leading wideout with 7,374 yards receiving.
White knows there’s still room for improvement — like stop leading the NFL in dropped passes, which he did last season.
“I led the league in drops last year, so I’ve got to fix that problem,” White said. “There’s always things in your game that you can fix. Especially when it comes to route-running.”
Jones is entering his second season. His numbers were respectable last season, but hamstring injuries to both legs sidelined him for three games.
It wasn’t exactly the debut Jones had in mind after leaving Alabama as a junior and becoming the No. 6 overall draft pick.
Last year’s lockout caused Jones to miss all of the customary offseason training activities and minicamps. He was coming off stress fracture surgery on his left foot, an injury that was discovered after the NFL combine.
Working last summer on a high school field with quarterback Matt Ryan helped Jones make good use of his free time during the lockout, though it hardly gave him a clear understanding of what to expect in his first season.
“I don’t think I did that great last year,” Jones said. “I started coming on at the end because me and Matt started getting our timing down and everything. I felt real good with the offense.”
Jones showed flashes of his talent early in the season by becoming the first receiver since Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson in 2008 to post two straight 100-yard games.
After returning from a left hamstring injury, Jones had an impressive game at Indianapolis, catching three passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
He hurt his right hamstring the following week against New Orleans and missed another game. When he returned, Jones caught 24 passes for 461 yards and six touchdowns over the last five games and was selected NFL rookie of the month.
White knew Jones was beginning to show his potential. Eight days into training camp, White can sense a breakout season coming for his teammate.
“He’s making a lot of plays out here,” White said. “This is exactly what he needed. He needed to go through OTAs, and now that we’re into training camp, he’s real comfortable. He’s going to be really good this year. I mean really, really special.”
Jones was grateful last year when White, one of Atlanta’s most brash and talkative players, was one of his first teammates to welcome him to the Falcons.
Now that they’ve had a full season together, Jones expects Atlanta’s offense to blossom, particularly with tight end Tony Gonzalez returning for likely his final year and Harry Douglas improving as a No. 3 receiver.
“We can be great,” Jones said. “The sky’s the limit. We’ve just got to keep coming out here every day and getting better.”
That could happen, but Falcons coach Mike Smith is pleased that White is working to improve his route running and concentration.
From 2009-11, White’s 30 drops trailed only Brandon Marshall and Wes Welker for most in the NFL.
“There’s going to be drops with the more opportunities you have to catch it,” Smith said. “It’s good that Roddy has taken a good, hard look at what he needs to improve on and that he feels like that’s an area he needs to address.”
Added White: “I talk to Coach, and if he doesn’t like what I’m doing on certain routes, I try to change it up. That’s what I’m doing right now and I’m trying to get better.”