While Matt Ryan managed to post decent stats last season despite a depleted receiving corps, there's no denying that the team sorely missed the production of Roddy White, who was hindered by injury much of the season, and Julio Jones, who was placed on IR early in the 2013 season. How is this unit shaping up as we head into training camp?
Roddy White was held out of minicamp as a precaution, but hopefully the veteran receiver will be fully healthy heading into the season. He was hobbled by a lingering high ankle sprain through much of the 2013 season, but showed flashes of greatness late in the season as he got healthier.
Julio Jones was leading the league in most receiving categories when he suffered a broken screw in his foot that ended his 2013 season. While Jones' health has been an ongoing concern, there's no denying that he has elite talent and is an impact player when healthy.
Harry Douglas really stepped up last season, and while few receivers in the league could really fill the void left by White and Jones, Douglas performed admirably overall, hauling in 85 catches on 133 targets, 1,067 receiving yards and 47 first downs.
Drew Davis will spend training camp on the physically unable to perform list, so it remains to be seen if this untimely injury situation will jeopardize his roster spot. Davis had 216 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, and 9 first downs last season.
Devin Hester has never had tremendous success as a receiver, but he does have remarkable speed and vision, and it will be interesting to see how the Falcons choose to utilize his skill set in the offense this season.
Darius Johnson was a fan favorite last season and got some actual playing time due to the injuries suffered by White and Jones. Johnson caught 22 of 43 targets for 210 yards and 1 touchdown.
Bernard Reedy, also known as Speedy Reedy, impressed during minicamp. If the undrafted free agent out of Toledo can develop into a viable special teams player and is as impressive offensively as he was during minicamp, he has an outside shot of making the roster.
Courtney Roby was a late free agent acquisition. The former New Orleans Saint was never particularly productive in that offense, and it remains to be seen how he'll fit into Atlanta's plans.
Geraldo Boldewijn is intriguing primarily because of his size. The undrafted free agent from Boise State is 6'4" and 220 pounds. He's definitely one to keep an eye on throughout training camp.
Julian Jones, not to be confused with Julio Jones, is an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas State. Jones had 1123 career receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in college.
Freddie Martino is an undrafted free agent out of North Greenville (SC) University who set a Division II record for receptions last season, totaling 146 for the year. Martino had 1,680 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013.
Tramaine Thompson is an undrafted free agent from Kansas State University. During his senior season he had 551 yards and 5 touchdowns on 32 receptions, and he also handled return duties.
One change is the addition of Devin Hester, who was undoubtedly added primarily as a return specialist, but could be a factor as a receiver if used properly. Kevin Cone, a consistent presence on Atlanta's roster over the past couple of season, was not re-signed as a free agent and is now with the Dolphins. The fact that Julio Jones and Roddy White are presumably healthy and will be ready to for the season is probably the biggest, most important and best change.
The Big Question
The Falcons lost a prolific receiving target with the retirement of Tony Gonzalez. How will the receiving corps be used to help fill that void?
Best Case Scenario
Everyone stays healthy, Roddy White is back to form and Julio Jones picks up where he left off prior to the season-ending injury he suffered last season. Oh, and Harry Douglas never trips.
Worst Case Scenario
See: Atlanta Falcons 2013 season.
When healthy, Roddy White and Julio Jones are arguably the best receiving duo in the league. Harry Douglas stepped up last season, posting over 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career, and the Falcons could find some creative ways to play to Devin Hester's strengths in the offense. Atlanta also has some intriguing fringe guys to keep an eye on throughout camp as the team works toward whittling the roster down to 53.