A healthy Atlanta Falcons wide receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones would present a next-level defensive challenge for the St. Louis Rams. The Rams just allowed 177 yards and two touchdowns on 16 catches to the Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
White and Jones offer a similar dichotomy of skill sets, with a better quarterback in Matt Ryan.
White, like Fitzgerald, is a consistent and crisp route-runner with sure hands who does work all over the field—but is particularly effective in short areas. Floyd and Jones are both size/speed specimens and the younger of their respective starting two-wideout sets.
Floyd is working to get to where Jones already is, though.
Julio has, in 30 career games, already racked up 2,233 yards and 19 touchdowns: 16-game paces of 1,191 yards and 10 scores.
Stopping the Falcons’ aerial attack will be top priority for the Rams.
If Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson expect to corral White, Jones and Harry Douglas, they’re going to need to get let off of the leash by defensive coordinator Tim Walton earlier. Facing a litter of soft coverage schemes, Palmer tossed up 204 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-19 passing in the first half.
Andre Roberts also got some love from Carson, to the tune of eight catches for 97 yards—leading Arizona in both—on nine targets. That’s where Douglas (six targets, four catches and 93 yards in Week 1) will come in on Sunday.
His average yards per attempt nearly halved from the first two quarters (10.74) to the second (5.86), and his passer rating fell 55.7 points after the break.
Per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jones (knee) and White (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday. They’ll probably both play Sunday. White, despite a high-ankle sprain, hasn’t missed a game in his NFL career. He’ll still try to go—even if only for a drive or two—just to preserve his streak.
Ryan targeted him just twice in Week 1; he was basically a decoy.
Regardless of whether his outside compatriots are right and ready, look for Tony Gonzalez to be heavily involved against the Rams. The 37-year-old veteran will relish the opportunity to give Alec Ogletree his first look at a Hall of Fame NFL tight end.
If Ogletree is going to get schooled like this one-on-one by a backup running back in the end zone, Gonzalez’s tutelage will be like sending a fifth-grader to a calculus exam. That play took place over a month ago, but without improvement on Ogletree’s part, the Gonzalez matchup could get really ugly really fast.
The aforementioned receiving weapons don’t even include the Rams franchise rushing leader—and more-than-capable pass-catcher—Steven Jackson.
In his Falcons debut, Jackson totaled 122 scrimmage yards on just 16 touches. He ran for 77 yards on 11 carries and caught five balls for 45 yards.
The NFL wasted no time scheduling Jackson’s first matchup with his old team—and plenty of attention will be paid to that storyline—but St. Louis will be more concerned with bottling up its former workhorse.
Outside of a 50-yard carry (which did not result in a touchdown), the New Orleans Saints did just that. Jackson averaged 2.7 yards on his other 10 carries, although he covered nine yards per catch.
The Falcons held New Orleans’ running backs to 2.9 yards per carry, so things might not get too much prettier between the tackles for a resting Daryl Richardson in Week 2. Richardson saw a full workload (20 carries, six targets) against Arizona, but who knows how many touches he’ll get now that Isaiah Pead has returned from suspension?
Richardson is the unquestioned starter—and Pead has David Wilson-like ball-security issues—for Jeff Fisher, but you’d have to figure Pead makes an appearance in some capacity or another. It’s possible that St. Louis will keep him on kickoff duty, but it’s hard to place a guy even there if you can’t trust him to hold onto the ball.
Atlanta gave up two catches of 25 or more yards to Drew Brees’ wide receivers. Look for Chris Givens to get behind the Falcons secondary and draw a flag, if not take one to the house.
Darren Sproles was productive against Atlanta’s defense, as well. Included in his stat line (six receptions on six targets for 88 yards): a 32-yard gain and a catch rate of 100 percent.
Tavon Austin should be a problem, too.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, look for whether Brian Quick gains any ground on Austin Pettis. Quick was targeted twice and caught one pass for 16 yards against Arizona. The Cardinals also held Pettis to a 50 percent catch rate—on six targets—but he, too, finished with 16 yards…on three catches.
Neither scored a touchdown; the only guy with those honors was Jared Cook.
Jimmy Graham was held to just 45 yards and a touchdown on four catches (seven targets). That’s not the most glowing endorsement of Cook’s statistical prospects, but Bradford’s new favorite target (10 looks in Week 1) will still be testing the middle of Atlanta’s defense.
Jamal Collier graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and is now a law student who covers the St. Louis Rams in his spare time. His work also appears on Yahoo!. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @JCollierD