So now it’s time to talk about receivers. I could be very negative here, but I think I’m going to practice selective memory when it comes to thinking about our receiving corps performance in 2006.
No doubt the Falcons had one of the worst groups of receivers in the league last year. One might argue they were the worst, which would be a hard argument for me to rebuke since after all we were the 32nd ranked passing offense.
But there were moments from this group, and the hope is that Paul Petrino and Hue Jackson can work their magic on these guys in 2007.
Lelie is a free agent, and I don’t expect him back. I never did, even when we originally made the trade, one that I will say I never agreed with. He was a stopgap that didn’t pay his dividends. Sure, this team could use Lelie this year, but why pay the money he’s likely to garner on the open market for a guy that has no guarantee of being higher than fourth on the depth chart?
We have Finneran returning, and with White and Jenkins will form the corps of our receivers. No one is sure whether Finneran will be his old self, but even if he’s only halfway back, he’ll still be effective. The big key will be if White and/or Jenkins can take their game to the next level. They flashed big play potential, and Jenkins was and is clearly our best receiver. Their hands are suspect, which I believe are due to poor mental concentration as opposed to just having bad hands. Hopefully the coaches can help fix that.
Since we’ll be running Petrino’s offense, we will likely be using a lot of four and five receiver sets. That could mean a lot of PT for Adam Jennings. He’s a guy I’m not that impressed with, but considering that smaller quick WRs like Deion Branch and Arnold Jackson had the greatest success at Louisville under Petrino, makes me believe there is a sliver of hope.
If need be the Falcons can use a middle round pick on a receiver. A player I personally like is Ohio State’s Anthony Gonzalez, who I liken to a Ricky Proehl with his ability in the slot. But it’s not a necessary move. The Falcons could simply go out and sign some cheap speed in free agency. Someone like Andre’ Davis, Quincy Morgan, or Shaun McDonald would do fine.
I don’t expect Jenkins or White to suddenly blossom into Pro Bowl receivers in this new offense. But I do expect some improvement. Maybe one or both will manage to break the 50-catch mark this season, something neither has done yet in their NFL careers.
As for tight end, Crumpler isn’t going anywhere, and should do fine in Petrino’s offense. The question at this position is who is going to be the second tight end. Eric Beverly has filled that role the past three years, and is a solid blocker, but do the Falcons want a solid blocker that can actually catch? Perhaps. If that’s the case then there is always of blockers available each year in free agency. The Falcons could save some money by cutting Beverly and then picking up another veteran at a miminum salary.