Since entering his third season in the NFL in 2007, Roddy White has become a model of consistency at wide receiver. The 31-year-old is coming off his sixth consecutive season as Atlanta's leader in catches and receiving yards. How long can that streak continue, though?
With the arrival of Julio Jones in 2011, White didn't see a drop off in production. He failed to eclipse 100 receptions last season, but he still managed to haul in 92 passes for 1,351 yards. Jones put up impressive numbers as well and beat White in receiving touchdowns. Still, White remained the go-to guy for Matt Ryan.
But some are beginning to wonder when Jones will become the No. 1 receiver.
At just 24 years old, Jones is already one of the league's premiere athletes. He consistently burns defenders in single coverage, and he draws a double-team more often these days. It's hard to pull that off, though, when White and Tony Gonzalez are on the field.
Jones finished with 129 targets in 2012, while White had 143. The gap between the two is rapidly narrowing. With Dirk Koetter ramping up the passing game, both receivers will stay active throughout the game. But who will come away with the best numbers?
Bucky Brooks from NFL.com recently tackled the debate, picking Jones as his favorite to win between the two.
"Given the dramatic improvement of the Falcons' passing game, particularly in the big-play category, I believe Jones should be the priority in the game plan," said Brooks.
Jones is seen as the big-play threat, but White cans still break away downfield. He caught 18 passes of 20-plus yards last season, tying Brandon Marshall for No. 7 in the league.
First-down situations really provide the biggest separation between these wideouts. White averaged just over 74 first downs over the last three seasons. Jones caught 56 first downs in his first full year in 2012. When the Falcons are pressed to move the chains, Ryan is looking for White more often than not.
Personally, I was on board with thinking Jones could become the top target last season, and I feel like leaning in that direction again. What do you guys think? Will White remain the top receiving target for Ryan, or will we see a changing of the guard?