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2011 Falcons Roster Breakdown: Julio Jones Is The Key At Wide Receiver

Throughout 2010, Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense constantly relied on Roddy White's ability to get open throughout the season. In fact, Roddy became a model of consistency as he caught at least five passes in 14 games last season. He would ultimately amass 115 catches, 1389 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns.

However, one could also make the point the offense was too dependent on White. White was Ryan's only legitimate deep threat, and was double-covered by opposing defenses accordingly. The over-reliance on White became painfully aware to Falcons fans in the playoff loss to Green Bay. The Falcons, who run a fairly conservative offense under Mike Mularkey, simply didn't have the firepower to mount a comeback. We lacked a deep threat guy.

Enter GM Thomas Dimitroff. The Falcons pull off a blockbuster deal to acquire Alabama WR Julio Jones in exchange for five draft picks to give Ryan yet another playmaker. The result is a depth chart shake-up at the wide receiver position.

Projected Depth Chart
(Player: College, Years of Experience)

Wide Receiver:

1. Roddy White:  UAB, 6 yrs
2. Julio Jones:  Alabama, rookie
3. Michael Jenkins:  Ohio State, 7 yrs
4. Harry Douglas:  Louisville, 3 yrs
5. Eric Weems:  Bethune-Cookman, 4 yrs
6. Kerry Meier:  Kansas, 1 yr

Tight End:

1. Tony Gonzalez:  California, 15 yrs
2. Justin Peelle:  Oregon, 10 yrs
3. Michael Palmer:  Clemson, 1 yr

Departures: Brian Finneran will part ways with Falcons after ten years of service with the team in order to make room for some of the younger talent on the roster. Expect everyone else to stay on the roster at least for the 2011 season.

New Arrivals: Julio Jones, of course! JJ11 will be given every opportunity to make plays in 2011, and hopefully will prove to be that one missing piece our offense has been lacking.

Outlook: Roddy White, he of the four consecutive 1000+ yard seasons, will obviously still be the main threat at wideout. The front offense seems to have faith in Jones, and I fully expect him to start week 1. Jenkins, who has always been solid but unspectacular, will be a much better fit at the No. 3 spot. However, if Harry Douglas can get back to the level he was at pre-injury, we could see Douglas jump Jenkins by year's end.

The receiving corps will be rounded out by kick-returns specialist Eric Weems and 2010 rookie Kerry Meier, whose season was cut short due to a knee injury. Expect Meier to fulfill the "Finneran role" of special teams coverage and possession specialist.

Tight end, on the other hand, will remain exactly the same. Hall of Fame shoe-in Tony Gonzalez will start in 2011, his third season in Atlanta. Many speculate that this could be his last year in the NFL, but although he's up in years Gonzalez remains a top-10 option at tight end in the eyes of many. Veteran backup Justin Peelle will be the primary backup and blocking specialist, with Clemson product Michael Palmer rounding out the depth chart.

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