The Atlanta Falcons will host a battle of strength versus strength when the Seattle Seahawks invade the Georgia Dome on Sunday. The Falcons' passing game is ranked sixth in the league, and so is the Seahawks' passing defense. On paper, it is a war of attrition.
But the Falcons have a secret weapon: Harry Douglas
Lost In the Shuffle
The Falcons have given Matt Ryan a trio of star targets. Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are all big-name players who make big-time plays. When the offense is clicking, defenses can tear themselves apart trying to cover all three. Harry Douglas might be the third receiver, but is often the fourth of Ryan's reads.
The talented Seahawks secondary does not plan to let the Falcons' offense click. And this is where Douglas becomes invaluable.
When Ryan Is In Trouble
Douglas emerges from the shadows when Ryan begins to struggle. In 2012, Harry Douglas' four best games were some of Ryan's worst.
In losses to the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Douglas was a large reason why the games stayed close. Against the Saints, Douglas caught four passes for 49 yards. Against the Buccaneers, Douglas caught Ryan's franchise record-breaking touchdown.
Douglas' true value is shown in two of the worst games in Ryan's career.
Ryan unexpectedly struggled against the Oakland Raiders in a 23-20 last-second win. Douglas caught as many balls (5) as he had in the three games prior combined. This included a quick pass during the game winning drive.
Douglas was there to lift Ryan during his abysmal performance against the Arizona Cardinals as well. On a day that Ryan threw five interceptions, Douglas stepped up and had just as many receptions. Two of Douglas' receptions were on what would be the game-winning drive. Douglas snagged back-to-back first-down passes to finally give the Falcons a little rhythm.
Douglas has quietly proved to be an asset throughout 2012.
Returning To Returning
One of the Falcons' weaknesses has been in returning punts this year. Dominique Franks earned the role in preseason, but has failed to make an impact in returning punts. His questionable judgement has left the offense pinned inside the 20 multiple times.
There is a chance that Douglas might resume the role of punt returner. If he does, the entire complexion of the game could change. Douglas is a capable returner who flashes speed and great instincts. Douglas might not be the best returner in the league, but has the skills to turn the tide in the battle for field position.
Maybe, Maybe Not
In the end, the Falcons might not have to rely on Douglas in the passing game. If the offense is clicking, look for the three big targets to begin racking up yards.
But if the going gets rough, look for Matt Ryan to begin targeting his secret weapon.