"We built this roster," Falcons head coach Mike Smith told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We like this roster. That's all I'll say about it."
Mike Smith is always a man of few words, and those few words are generally pretty predictable. The Falcons have long operated on the "next man up" principle, and this season seems to be no exception. Despite significant injuries on both sides of the ball, the Falcons seem content to work with the roster they have.
With the season-ending injury suffered by Julio Jones in week five of the NFL season, and lingering high ankle and hamstring injuries for Roddy White, the Falcons will turn to Harry Douglas, Drew Davis, Kevin Cone, and recent acquisition Brian Robiskie to step up, and also will count on the ever-reliable Tony Gonzalez, and rookie Levine Toilolo. Maybe tight end Chase Coffman, who has shown promise as a receiver, but has been limited to just four snaps this season, will actually see some action as well.
D. Led is also reporting that Jason La Canfora's report over the weekend that the Falcons were interested in pursuing Hakeem Nicks is inaccurate. Per Ledbetter, the Falcons did not discuss a trade for Nicks beyond what the Falcons termed as "due diligence."
There are two things that are important to consider regarding the current state of the receiving corps. One, in practice, the starting quarterback will generally use most of his reps to throw to the top receivers, meaning that Matt Ryan's chemistry with guys farther down the depth chart will likely suffer from fewer reps. With Roddy White hobbled, and Julio out, Ryan has the opportunity to develop better chemistry with Douglas, Davis, Cone and Robiskie.
The other thing is, Roddy White won't be limited, or out, forever. Neither will Steven Jackson, even though it may feel like it right now. Jason Snelling returned to practice today, and he and Jacquizz Rodgers provide versatility out of the backfield, and are capable of being factors in the passing game as well.
So, "next man up" it is. The Falcons have invested the time to develop these players, except for Robiskie, and hopefully it will pay off against the Bucs this Sunday. Harry Douglas, Drew Davis, Kevin Cone and Brian Robiskie have been presented with a huge opportunity, and they need to make the most of it.