FLOWERY BRANCH GA - JULY 30: Roddy White #84 of the Atlanta Falcons walks onto the field during opening day of training camp on July 30 2010 at the Falcons Training Complex in Flowery Branch Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Over the years, Roddy White has undergone two drastic changes as an NFL receiver.
The first, of course, was from disappointing first-round bust to one of the league's better wide receivers. From 2007 through last season, White has piled up more than 6,000 yards receiving and has consistently pulled in third-down receptions from quarterbacks ranging from Joey Harrington to Matt Ryan. It was this rapid evolution that put him on the map, and it is this evolution that will probably earn him a place in the Falcons' Ring of Honor when his career winds down at last.
The second change was from dynamic young receiver with the acumen to get open and the speed to get away from defensive backs to...well, a possession receiver. That may sound like a kiss of death, but it hardly is.
Roddy's yards per catch have been well under 15 for the last three seasons, and that's a natural part of the evolution of a wide receiver and, hell, of human beings. We cannot be 27 years old forever, and time greedily saps us of our strength and speed. Roddy's wheels are eroding, however slightly, and the Falcons' commitment to timing routes hasn't done anything to help that out. At this point in his career, Roddy is best at turning on the burners to get open and then getting slammed to the turf.
Now 30 going on 31, White has many quality years left ahead of him, but he's likely to be that kind of receiver going forward. As Julio Jones comes into his own as a dynamic, powerful deep threat and Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas show no fear going over the middle, Ryan will continue to lean on White to make the tough catch, to get open when it's most needed and to catch the ball nine yards out on a 3rd and 10 and find a way to push it for a first down. He's not going to have many more 50+ yard catches, and he may not have any. But it won't matter much.
That's not to say that White is purely a possession receiver, because he retains enough speed and craftiness to be more than that. He also drops enough passes that the term "possession" may seem a little flattering. But ultimately, we shouldn't fear this evolution of his career. Roddy's going to remain an integral part of this offense for years to come.
What do you think?