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Friday, August 19, 2011
Observations on the Atlanta Falcons

By Pat Yasinskas

If you think the Atlanta Falcons player who will benefit most from the arrival of rookie receiver Julio Jones will be quarterback Matt Ryan, you might be wrong.

It could end up being Harry Douglas. If you didn’t see the Falcons' 15-13 preseason loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday night and don’t know what I’m talking about, catch a replay of the game.

There’s a second-quarter play that demonstrates exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a 76-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Douglas.

It’s the kind of play the Falcons didn’t have nearly enough of last season. In fact, Douglas probably couldn’t have made the same play last season. The difference is the presence of Jones.

With Jones and Roddy White lined up at wide receiver, Douglas lined up in the slot. He ran a slant route and never really was covered. He caught it in the middle of the field and headed for the sideline. He never was touched. But, just in case he needed help, Jones was downfield and ready to throw a block. That wasn’t needed.

Douglas was with the Falcons last season, but he didn’t supply the kind of big plays the Falcons wanted. That’s partly because former starter Michael Jenkins was hurt early in the season and Douglas had to play his position. Douglas isn’t a big guy and isn’t the kind of receiver who can help you as a run blocker and he really isn’t a possession receiver.

The Falcons believe he’s a natural slot guy. That’s where Douglas is playing now and the difference is significant. With White and Jones on the outside, there are going to be plenty of times when Douglas doesn’t draw much coverage. If he makes a few big plays, he’ll get more coverage and that will mean less attention on White.

That will mean more big plays and that’s exactly what the Falcons want.

A few other observations on the Falcons.