As it became clearer and clearer that the Atlanta Falcons were about to lose to the 2-6 San Francisco 49ers, one couldn’t help but wonder if the offense would be capable of beating a mediocre opponent if they’d just call on the greatest wide receiver in franchise history.
Alas, a Roddy White target is becoming almost as rare as a Falcons defensive sack.
Over the past couple of seasons, the aging White has clearly lost a step, but found a solid role as a possession receiver. Julio Jones would get the big plays and deep balls, but when the offense needed to convert a third-and-2, White would be sent on a short slant route to make the sure catch.
There’s just no way the 34-year-old White is suddenly unable to get those targets, or he would have been cut by the Falcons altogether.
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Where he used to get 10 to 15 targets per game, White only had two passes thrown his way in Sunday’s loss, and he was certainly wide open more often than that. His lone reception was a big 20-yarder in the fourth quarter, leaving me to wonder: is there any explanation for this sudden lack of targets, other than offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has placed him firmly into the doghouse?
Frankly, I haven’t been all that enamored with Shanahan’s tutelage thus far in his first season as the Falcons’ OC, but that’s another topic for another time. If he wants to get his offense rolling, White cannot remain just a blocker.
White has made no secret about the fact that he’d like to get the ball more often – especially when he’s running unguarded down the field.
“I would like to be more involved in the offense but it is what it is,” White told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m going to go out there and run the plays that are called and block as hard as I can and help my team win.”
Through nine games, White has only been targeted 28 times; even Leonard Hankerson, who has missed four games due to injury, has been targeted more than that. Quarterback Matt Ryan is attempting about 40 passes per game, and only looking at his franchise receiver roughly three times in those 40 passes.
That’s not “you’re not open,” that’s scheme.
So as the Falcons take a week off, they’re likely to do a lot of soul-searching after four straight poor performances against lousy teams. Whatever it takes for Shanahan and White to make up and move on, it needs to be done. The Falcons will not make the playoffs if Ryan doesn’t have a third legitimate receiver behind Jones and tight end Jacob Tamme. They have to find passing yards somewhere else.
And if Shanahan can’t figure out how to use White the way he’s meant to be used, then he might not be the right person to lead this offense.
Photo via AtlantaFalcons.com