FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Roddy White and Julio Jones believe they can become the NFL’s top receiving tandem.
That’s not to say White and Jones are promising that success will come easily.
The Atlanta Falcons’ offense is still a work in progress.
“Every year, I feel like if we don’t win a playoff game, there’s something I did wrong and there’s more I’ve got to do,” White said Thursday. “I’m just trying to find ways to win games and get us over the hump.”
Entering his eighth season, White has reached several personal goals:
• In December, he became the eighth NFL receiver to catch at least 80 passes for 1,000 yards receiving in five consecutive years.
• He has led the NFC in catches for the past two seasons and has played in five consecutive Pro Bowls.
• White is the Falcons’ career-leading wideout with 7,374 yards receiving.
White knows there’s still room for improvement.
“I led the league in drops last year, so I’ve got to fix that problem,” White said. “There’s always things in your game that you can fix. Especially when it comes to route-running.”
Jones is entering his second season. His numbers were respectable last season, but hamstring injuries to both legs sidelined him for three games.
It wasn’t exactly the debut Jones had in mind after leaving Alabama as a junior and becoming the No. 6 overall draft pick.
Last year’s lockout caused Jones to miss all of the customary off-season training activities and minicamps. He was coming off stress fracture surgery on his left foot, an injury that was discovered after the NFL combine.
Working last summer on a high school field with quarterback Matt Ryan helped Jones make good use of his free time during the lockout, though it hardly gave him a clear understanding of what to expect in his first season.
“I don’t think I did that great last year,” Jones said. “I started coming on at the end because me and Matt started getting our timing down and everything. I felt real good with the offense.”
Jones showed flashes of his talent early in the season, but was slowed by injuries.
Now that they’ve had a full season together, Jones expects Atlanta’s offense to blossom, particularly with tight end Tony Gonzalez returning for likely his final year and Harry Douglas improving as a No. 3 receiver.
“We can be great,” Jones said. “The sky’s the limit. We’ve just got to keep coming out here every day and getting better.”
That could happen, but Falcons coach Mike Smith is pleased that White is working to improve his route running and concentration.
From 2009-11, White’s 30 drops trailed only Brandon Marshall and Wes Welker for most in the NFL.
“There’s going to be drops with the more opportunities you have to catch it,” Smith said. “It’s good that Roddy has taken a good, hard look at what he needs to improve on and that he feels like that’s an area he needs to address.”
Added White: “I talk to Coach, and if he doesn’t like what I’m doing on certain routes, I try to change it up. That’s what I’m doing right now and I’m trying to get better.”