We continue our series on my projected top 25 players in the NFC South for the 2012 season with No. 19:
Roddy White, wide receiver, Atlanta
What he did in 2011: With 100 catches for 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns, White’s numbers were pretty much in line with what he produced in each of the previous four seasons. But make no mistake, 2011 wasn’t White’s best season. After being sure-handed in recent years, White ended up leading the NFL with 15 drops. Even with rookie Julio Jones taking away some defensive attention, White didn’t dominate games the way he sometimes did in the past. He had five 100-yard games, but only one in the first nine games. The Falcons talked a lot about getting more explosive plays in the passing game by pairing Jones with White. They did improve in that area, but I don’t think they made as many strides as the front office or coaching staff would have liked.
Why he’s No. 19 in 2012: White still is an elite receiver and I expect a bounce-back season. Even more than the drops, I think what held White back last season was offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. Coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff made a lot of moves to improve the deep passing game, but I don’t think Mularkey ever fully grasped the concept of what they were looking for. Atlanta’s offense was extremely talented, but never really seemed to be in rhythm. One game the Falcons looked like a running team and the next they looked like a passing team. Mularkey is now the head coach in Jacksonville and Dirk Koetter is the new offensive coordinator. You can bet that when he went through the interview process, Koetter had to give Smith and Dimitroff some concrete examples of ways he planned to get more out of a talented receiving corps.