At 37 years old and in his final NFL season, tight end Tony Gonzalez, left, is being called upon to be the top receiving threat for the Falcons, who are without receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White this Sunday.
FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has a plan to replace wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White in the team’s passing attack.
He called it a “no-brainer.”
The passing attack will lean on the broad shoulders of 37-year-old tight end Tony Gonzalez when the Falcons (1-4) host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
“As we evolve into this wide receiver situation, obviously there might be more things up with Tony featured as the No. 1 guy,” Koetter said. “That’s a no-brainer. We’ll see how that goes.”
Jones, who had surgery Monday, is on injured reserve and out for the season. Jones was the team’s leading receiver with 41 catches for 580 yards and two touchdowns. He accounted for 26.9 percent of the 152 catches and 35.3 percent of the 1,641 passing yards.
White has been slowed all season by a right high ankle sprain, but a hamstring injury could end his streak of 133 consecutive starts.
Gonzalez has 33 catches for 339 yards and three touchdowns. He’s accounted for 21.7 percent of the catches and 20.6 percent of the yards.
Also, teams will not be able to attack him in the red zone like a punt-team gunner, as New Orleans and New England did. That could possibly help the Falcons’ struggling red-zone offense.
“In our game following the Patriots, the league came out and determined how they were going to officiate that,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “It was officiated completely different in the New York Jets game. I believe there were two penalties that were called in that exact same situation down in the red zone when they lined up in that alignment.”
The Falcons believe the officials will remain consistent in calling the holding penalty. In the Jets game, linebackers David Harris and Demario Davis were called for holding.
“The officials have their reports every week,” Smith said. “They are evaluated as well. It was officiated differently in the Jets game than it was in the Patriots game, and we anticipate that it will be that way the rest of the season.”
Smith has said that Harry Douglas will have to step up in Jones’ absence. Now, with White potentially out, backup wide receivers Kevin Cone and Drew Davis could see extensive action. Also, the Falcons signed Brian Robiskie, the son of assistant head coach/wide receivers Terry Robiskie, last week.
“Both Drew and Kevin have made their names as hard-nosed special-teams guys,” Koetter said. “Run-and-hit guys, guys who play physical.”
Koetter and Ryan have pointed to a sight adjustment that Cone made in the fourth quarter against the Jets. On a third-and-3 from the Jets’ 38, he made a 12-yard catch during the touchdown drive that cut the Jets’ lead to 27-21.
That was Cone’s first catch in the NFL. Davis doesn’t have a catch this season, but caught four passes for 40 yards and one touchdown last season.
White has given Davis and Cone pep talks.
“Roddy just said, ‘go out there and relax,’” Davis said. “He said just go out there and do it like you did in college. Go out there and have fun and make some plays.”
Both Cone, out of Georgia Tech, and Davis, out of Oregon, signed as undrafted college free agents in 2011. Both spent a season on the practice squad before making the active roster in 2012.
“We’re just two hard-working guys,” Davis said. “We’re going to go out there and block. We’re going to catch the ball and try to get things done.”
Robiskie, a second-round pick in 2009 by Cleveland, has the most experience, but hasn’t played much over the past two seasons. The Falcons appear to be getting him ready as quickly as possible.
“You just try to put guys in position to take advantage of what they do best,” Koetter said. “You’re going to move certain guys around. Some of the guys who haven’t played as much, they don’t have as much experience, so they might be playing in one spot instead of playing multiple spots.
“With Roddy, Julio and Tony, those guys get moved around a lot. We just have to put the guys in the best position (to make plays).”