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Can Atlanta Falcons Make Roddy White, Julio Jones Pairing Work?

I've stopped looking, for the sake of sanity, but according to Pat Yasinkas' recent drop counts, Roddy White has led the league in dropped passes for most of the season. And that was before spilling a pass that turned into an interception and nearly grabbing another that would've been the game-winning touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. His second woulda-been game-winning touchdown against a division rival of the season, mind you, after he did the same against the Bucs. And that's in addition to a streak of personal foul penalties.

What's wrong with the player who was so clearly Atlanta's best in 2010?

The Falcoholic has attempted to diagnose Roddy's ills, finding nothing to hang on to. His numbers have dropped off (62.5 yards per game, his lowest average since 2006, and 5.2 catches per game, his lowest since 2007), and that's overlooking all the yardage he's cost the team.

One prominent theory is that Julio Jones' introduction has ruined a delicate balance, whether psychologically or schematically. But, and I think this is fair to say, White only tends to act up in defense of his teammates, not because of them. His reaction to the Jones pick was fine at the time, and he's saying the same stuff now

If Matt Ryan is sending many of White's targets Julio's way, that's only natural and kind of the whole point. Jones wasn't brought to Atlanta to take pressure off of Jerious Norwood. Either way, it's not that White is seeing fewer balls, it's that he's doing so much less with them. We're talking about a player who didn't drop a single pass for almost the entire 2010 season despite being a team's No. 1 target.

Either way, Roddy's still seeing the ball. He's on pace for 150 targets, shy of 2009's 164 and 2010's 179 but still substantial. He's currently the NFL's fifth-most-targeted receiver, but ranks 23rd in yardage.

Jones, meanwhile, has averaged two fewer targets than White per game he's played in. He's been targeted 35 fewer times, but trails White by only 65 yards.

It's not about which of the two is better, but about having them both play well. If Jones' output is better, that's fine, but Roddy's needs to stay high as well.

Even though Jones has delivered superior results, and Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner remain solid, White is still Atlanta's No. 1 offensive threat for now. If he can play up to 2010's standard for the rest of the year, the Falcons should be a playoff lock. We'll have to hope that happens.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.