This post is from Danny Lanier. Enjoy it!
The other day I asked Mr. Falcoholic himself, Dave Choate, what he thought the Falcons’ identity was. His response: "A passing team with an aggressive, attacking defense."
I thought about this for a moment and realized that this is the same identity our upcoming opponent, the Saints, had back in 2009 on their magical Super Bowl run. In that year, however, the Saints were not doubted by the pundits as they raced out to a 13-0 record. This is because they were able to dominate the opposition by lighting up the scoreboard with Drew Brees and his arsenal of receivers, which forced their opponents to play catch-up and make tons of errors. So why aren’t the Falcons as feared in 2012 as the Saints were in 2009? While there may be a few reasons, one sticks out in particular – the marginalization of Harry Douglas.
Douglas was selected by the Falcons in the third round of the 2008 draft – the same one that produced Matt Ryan, Sam Baker, the departed Curtis Lofton and Thomas DeCoud. Harry burst onto the scene as Ryan’s third passing option (recall this was before the Falcons had a legit receiving TE) making clutch catches and even returned a punt for a TD. Hopes were high going into the 2009 season before a torn ACL in training camp derailed his 2009 campaign. Since then, the emergence of Tony Gonzales as a favorite target of Matt Ryan and the selection of Julio Jones in the 2011 draft, have rendered Douglas an afterthought in the Falcons’ passing attack. But does this have to be the case?
When Douglas signed a new contract this offseason to return to Atlanta, I was hopeful that new offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, had big plans for HD, and that it had been former OC, Mike Mularkey’s fault that Harry wasn’t getting much run in the Atlanta offense. Turns out, it’s pretty much been status quo thus far.
Since we’re playing the Saints this week, I thought it might be appropriate to highlight the cmparison between Harry’s production and the production of the Saints slot receiver, Lance Moore. Since Moore joined the Saints in 2005, I’ll focus on his production since the 2008 season. Since 2008, Moore has caught 244 passes for 2,965 yards and 32 TDs. That’s an average of 12.15 yards per catch and 49.24 yards per game. During the same stretch, Douglas has caught only 100 passes for 1,261 yards and 3 TDs. [Note: Douglas missed all of the 2009 season; however, Moore played in only 7 games in 2009 due to his own injury. Moore caught 14 passes for 153 yards and 2 TDs that year.]
What’s striking to me about this comparison is that Douglas’ yards per catch (12.61) is slightly better than Moore’s, but Moore gets more total production in games and is lethal when it comes to scoring touchdowns compared to Harry. So what gives? Is Harry not as effective beating man coverage? Does the coaching staff and/or Ryan not trust him? If either of these is true, it certainly makes you wonder what his role is on the team. This perplexes me because upon the Falcons drafting Douglas in 2008, ESPN analyst, Cris Carter described him as a more talented version of Patriots slot receiver, Wes Welker.
Just think how scary the Falcons offense would be if Harry were as integral a part of it as Lance Moore is to the Saints offense. Until that happens (or until the Falcons have a homerun threat at the RB position), the Falcons will continue to be viewed simply as a "solid" team but not one has foes shaking in their cleats.