49ers vs. Falcons: Julio Jones and Roddy White Will Expose San Fran's Defense

Josh Cohen@@arealjoshcohenCorrespondent IIJanuary 18, 2013

Jones and White are the toughest wideout matchups in the NFL.
Jones and White are the toughest wideout matchups in the NFL.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers defense is as stout as they come, but the Atlanta Falcons will be able to hurt them with Julio Jones and Roddy White.

Atlanta has the strongest one-two punch at wide receiver in the league. Jones will represent the Falcons at the Pro Bowl this season, while White made it in each of the prior four seasons.

What's more, Jones and White complement each others' skills perfectly.

Once one of the most athletic receivers in the NFL, White has reinvented himself as more of a possession receiver. He now uses physical ability more often as a tool to get open in space rather than to stretch the field.

The Falcons don't need their 31-year-old wideout to focus on beating the defense deep. That's why they traded a king's ransom to draft Jones. When you have a 6'3", 220-pound freak of nature with blazing speed and supreme leaping ability, you don't need White to be a game-breaker anymore.

It's the versatility of the two receivers that make them such a nightmarish match up for opposing defenses. Even for a defense as great as San Francisco's it's virtually impossible to contain both of them.

Carlos Rogers, the bigger, more physical San Francisco cornerback, will likely be tasked with covering Jones. It's the Niners' only hope if they want to limit Jones in the red zone.

If the 5'10" Tarell Brown tried to lock down Jones, Matt Ryan would happily take the opportunity to throw the outside fade early and often. Rogers is 6'0" and can limit Jones at the line a bit more, making him the necessary choice for San Fran.

However, Rogers cannot match Jones' speed. The second-year wideout is an underrated route-runner and he can get Rogers to bite on a double move to get behind him. Once Jones has a step, even safety help might not be enough.

Logically, San Fran would rotate its ball-hawking safeties to Jones' side of the field to try to take away the deep ball. Roddy White demands attention too, though.

Remember—White has focused more than ever on the short- and medium-range game because Jones is usually running deep. But if Jones is occupied, White will have room to run.

He can beat Brown off the line and still has the legs to get open downfield. That means the safeties can't hedge over to Jones or White will burn them. And if they try to play both sides deep, Tony Gonzalez will find the space they left over the middle.

Atlanta's vertical attack is simply too strong for the Niners secondary to stop. It's difficult to predict which one of the Falcon wide receivers will have a big day against San Francisco—it's a sure bet that one of them will.