Camp Battles 2011: Wide Receiver
The focus in camp likely will be on the team’s top pick, Julio Jones, and trying to get him integrated into the starting offense as much as possible. In a normal summer, the Falcons would likely work Jones at all three wide receiver positions (X, Y, Z) to promote depth and flexibility. It’s most likely that most of his work will come at the X and Y positions, which are currently manned by Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas, respectively.
It will be interesting to see where the Falcons modify their usual formula in order to accelerate Jones’ progress. The positive is that during Camp Exile, Jones got work at all three positions, so at least among the Falcons rookies he’s certainly ahead of the curve.
There has been speculation that the Falcons might be willing to deal Jenkins to make room for Jones, and that will depend heavily on how the Falcons view the latter’s progress in camp. It’s unlikely to occur and the market for Jenkins will likely be cool since it’s an uncharacteristically strong class of free agent receivers that needy teams will be able to pilfer.
Douglas is also likely to remain in good standing with the team, making the Falcons quartet with Roddy White fairly set and secure in 2011.
The questions come behind them. Eric Weems should remain safe coming off a Pro Bowl year on special teams. While the team may give other players some extended looks in the return game, it’s not likely to be a reflection on Weems since he’s a fairly known commodity and brings a ton of value in that arena.
Kerry Meier is the front-runner of the remaining guys to land a roster spot. He is coming off an ACL tear last summer, and he’ll need to be 100% when camps commence to ensure him sticking with the team. If Meier is less than healthy, it will open up opportunities for the rest of the guys to make their presences known.
Brandyn Harvey has good size and is a capable blocker, but he needs to have a better showing as a receiver this preseason opposed to last where he had only one catch for three yards. Tim Buckley and Andy Strickland are also in the mix, and as typical, all three’s chances will depend heavily on their performances on special teams. All three are only likely to be practice squad candidates at best.
Also, there still remains a chance that the Falcons bring back veteran free agent Brian Finneran. Finneran worked out with his teammates during Camp Exile, indicating that he still wants to play football. Finneran’s chances of playing a twelfth season for the Falcons should dramatically increase if Meier is still rehabbing his injury.
The team will definitely keep at least five receivers for the regular season. Meier and Jones’ progress and how much confidence they inspire will likely determine if they decide to keep a sixth.