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Falcons Roster Review 2015: Examining the play of the wide receivers

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Overall, the Falcons receivers combined for an uneven 2014 performance.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

While Julio Jones cemented himself as one of the league's elite receivers, running mate Roddy White turned in a less-than-stellar campaign.

Harry Douglas had an okay year statistically, and Devin Hester surprised by contributing more than expected offensively.

Other than Jones, the Falcons receivers didn't turn in noteworthy seasons.

What sticks out about the wide receiver corps is this: they left 390 yards on the field due to drops, according to Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson.

Also made apparent is the fact the team needs to find a receiver to groom to replace White. Address the issue before it's too, too late.

Let's take a closer look.

Julio Jones

A year after fracturing his foot in the fifth game and missing the remainder of the season, Julio Jones turned in a monster 2014 season. He finished with 104 receptions for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns, despite missing a game.

Jones also led the league with 31 catches over 20 plus yards. His 104 catches and 1,593 both ranked third in the league and he ranked second in the league in yards per game with 106.2.

His performance earned him the second Pro Bowl bid of his four-year career, although he opted to sit out to heal.

In Week 13, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson called out the Falcons' stud receiver. Jones responded by torching Peterson for a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions.

Not to be outdone by himself, Jones set a new career-high — and franchise record for receiving yards in a single game — with 259 the very next week against the Green Bay Packers. He was unable to finish the game as he left late in the fourth quarter due to a hip injury.

But for how good Jones' season was, there were early struggles.

From Weeks 4 through 11 Jones failed to get into the end zone, and in four of those seven games, he finished with less than 70 receiving yards. It should also be noted the Falcons' offensive line was in flux with several players being placed on injured reserve. (Expect a review of that group in the coming days.)

If there's a blight Jones' season, it's the relatively low touchdown total, and likely a key reason why he didn't receive a single All-Pro vote.

Roddy White

Roddy White's 2013 season was riddled with injuries. For the first time in his career, failed to suit up for a game (he missed three total). White wasn't healthy until Week 13 against the Buffalo Bills, and he went on a tear to end the season, totaling 502 yards and two touchdowns on 43 receptions.

It was more of the same for White injury-wise in 2014. Although he missed just two games, he dealt with ankle, hamstring, and knee injuries throughout the season. He caught a lot of passes (80) and scored seven touchdowns, but he failed the hit the 1,000 mark for the second consecutive year as he finished with 921 receiving yards.

He also averaged less than 12 yards per catch (11.5) for the second year in a row. Again, sticking with the consecutive theme, his longest reception went for 39 yards.

Whether it's the fact he's 33 years old, the nagging injuries, or a combination of both, this much was clear: he had difficulty getting separation.

White's performance against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4 was particularly egregious and put his seeming decline on full display. He was targeted 14 times, but only hauled in four of those for 73 yards and a touchdown.

It's hard to imagine White getting back to 1,000 yards for the next season or two before retirement.

Harry Douglas

After a career year in which he was thrust into the featured receiver spot due to injuries and responded by posting 1,067 yards and two touchdowns on 85 catches, Harry Douglas settled back into his slot receiver role for the 2014 season.

He ended up with 51 receptions for 556 yards and two touchdowns — the most he's posted as the team's slot receiver. The absence of Tony Gonzalez undoubtedly opened up more targets for him.

As seems to usually be the case, there were miscues between Ryan and Douglas that resulted in errant passes or turnovers — particularly on deep shots.

Of the receiving group, Douglas missed the most games with four as he dealt with a foot injury he suffered in Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Douglas is an interesting case for the Falcons. He will be 31 in September and carries a cap hit of $4.5 million as he heads into the final year of his current contract.

Devin Hester

When the Falcons signed Devin Hester in the offseason, they knew they were getting a dynamic kickoff and punt returner. What they probably didn't realize right away is they'd be getting a player who can also contribute offensively.

Hester spent time as a wide receiver while with the Chicago Bears, but in 2013 before his departure he was strictly on return duty.

In his first season with the Falcons, he caught 38 passes for 504 yards and two touchdowns. In the first game of the season, he hauled in five receptions for 99 yards.

Hester wouldn't reach that 99 receiving yardage total again on the season, but he did post 85 and 70 on different occasions.

He also recorded the first rushing touchdown of his career as he took a took a reverse 20 yards into the end zone.

But Hester had his share of drops as well, including what should've been a wide-open touchdown catch in Week 10.

Still, when you take into account Hester's big returns, it's safe to say he was easily one of the Falcons' best signings in 2014.

Eric Weems

While Eric Weems is the ace on special teams for the Falcons, he did have some contributions in the passing game.

He finished the season with just 10 receptions for 102 yards, but he also scored two big touchdowns.

The first touchdown came against the Packers. The game had taken an ugly turn in the second quarter, but Eric Weems caught a five-yard touchdown on fourth down and scored the first six of 30 points that the Falcons would rattle off in the second half. He also provided us a hilarious touchdown dance.

In Week 16 in a key game against the New Orleans Saints, Weems scored his second touchdown. He played the role of former Falcons running back Jason Snelling and took the shovel pass three yards out for an easy score before halftime.

With that said, let's be clear: Weems' value comes on special teams.

The Falcons must bring in a wide receiver or two to groom — or contribute right away — as the current pass catchers aren't getting any younger. Jones, for as great as he is, could still use a young, fresh set of legs to pair with him as he enters the prime of his career.