FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Harry Douglas says he can’t save the Falcons’ season alone.
“I don’t need to go out there and try to be Superman,” Douglas said.
Atlanta already lost its Superman for the season.
The Falcons enter their bye week having to recast their offensive plans after announcing Wednesday that Julio Jones, the NFL’s leading receiver, would be lost for the season with a foot injury that will require surgery.
Jones, the 2011 first-round pick who earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2012, had joined Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez to give quarterback Matt Ryan a dynamic trio of targets. Jones was the top big-play threat. He led the NFL with 41 catches and ranked second with 580 yards receiving.
The Falcons rode their high-powered passing attack to last season’s NFC championship game, but they have fallen to 1-4 with three straight losses.
The loss of Jones only adds more uncertainty to Atlanta’s hopes for a recovery. The Falcons entered their bye week four games behind the Saints in the NFC South.
Jones might not be the only missing receiver for Atlanta’s Oct. 20 game against Tampa Bay. White missed practice this week after leaving Monday night’s 30-28 loss to the New York Jets with a hamstring injury. White already had been slowed by a high ankle sprain he suffered before the season.
The Falcons signed receiver Brian Robiskie on Thursday when Jones was placed on injured reserve. Robiskie, who played a combined 37 games with Cleveland and Detroit the last four years, is the son of Falcons receivers coach Terry Robiskie.
Robiskie, Kevin Cone, Drew Davis and Douglas could be Ryan’s receivers against Tampa Bay if White misses a game for the first time in his career.
Cone caught his first career pass against the Jets. Davis doesn’t have a reception this year. Douglas is an established veteran, but his role has been as the No. 3 receiver, not the go-to leader of the unit.
Douglas said he won’t place added pressure on himself.
“I think the best thing for us is to relax and play football,” Douglas said. “Don’t try to do too much.”
Ryan and coach Mike Smith seemed to search for ways to cast an optimistic outlook on the somber news that Jones would be lost for the season.
Smith noted that Cone and Davis have been around for a couple years.
“The missed time that Roddy has had in practice has given Drew and Kevin a chance to work with Matt,” Smith said. “They’ve probably worked more with Matt in practice than both Roddy and Julio. If they have to step up and make some plays for us, they will. They’ve been with us for a couple years, so it’s their opportunities to go out and play.”
Jones (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) is fast but also big and strong and able to win most one-on-one battles for the ball. Ryan said both Cone (6-2, 216) and Davis (6-1, 205) also have good size.
“I think Kevin is a physical guy, a big, strong physical guy,” Ryan said. “Drew is also a big strong guy. Both those guys have body types similar to Julio. I think they’ll do a good job for us. Certainly they’ll be asked to do more than they’ve done up to this point, but both those guys have been here for a long time and know our offense really well.”
Cone was not drafted after having only six receptions as a senior in 2010 in Georgia Tech’s run-oriented option offense. He seemed to be next in line when called on to make a key third-down catch against the Jets.
“I’m a hometown guy,” said Cone, from the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain. “I’m going to give everything I have and I’m going to hopefully pick up the slack and nothing is going to change.”
Douglas has 16 catches for 219 yards and no touchdowns in his fifth season. He has never had more than one touchdown catch in a season.
Ryan said he’s hoping the bye week will give running back Steven Jackson and left tackle Sam Baker a chance to return from injuries. Jackson has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury. Baker was held out against the Jets with a knee injury.
Jackson’s return could restore emphasis to the running game and help take pressure off the receivers.
“Obviously when he’s back it’s huge for us,” Ryan said. “He’s a great player, a great leader and can do a lot of things for us.
“In terms of the offense, he’s an extremely versatile player. He can get out of the backfield and catch some passes for us. He runs the ball really effectively. He’s good in pass protection, so obviously when we get him back he adds a huge dimension to our offense.”
For a Falcons offense stunned by the loss of Jones, Jackson’s return would be a well-timed boost.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org