Why Harry Douglas Is New Key to Atlanta Falcons' Passing Attack

Scott Carasik@ScottCarasikContributor IIOctober 29, 2013

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 27:  Wide receiver Harry Douglas #83 of the Atlanta Falcons runs with the football after a reception past inside linebacker Karlos Dansby #56 and free safety Rashad Johnson #26 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 27, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Falcons 27-13. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Harry Douglas is the new keystone to the Atlanta Falcons' passing attack for the 2013 season. Not just because of injuries to Roddy White and Julio Jones, but also because Tony Gonzalez is aging and getting covered like a gunner on a punt team.

To utilize the veteran receiver, the Falcons will have to make sure they get the ball into Douglas' hands on screens to maximize his ability to run after the catch. They will have to pick apart teams on intermediate and crossing routes over the middle. And most of all, they have to scheme ways to get him open deep.


Screens, Screens, Screens and Short Crossing Routes

The Falcons need to continue to utilize the screen game with Douglas. While most receivers have trouble taking the ball and doing anything with it, Douglas is at his best with the ball in his hands, creating yards after the catch.

Screen plays like the one above are common place in the Falcons offense. Douglas can showcase his speed on them from the spot he'll be playing when Roddy White comes back from injury in the next couple of weeks. 

The No. 2 guy normally lines up on the left. And for Douglas, that's not an issue. He can burn a defense with those screens. And his open-field running skills could lead to more options for the Falcons than just quick screens.

Because outside of screens, the best part of Douglas' skill set is his ability to create plays at the intermediate level of the defense on post and crossing routes. He can do a ton of damage with the ball in his hands, as he has the speed and change-of-direction ability to create yards after the catch.

The best part of screens and crossing routes isn't getting the ball into Douglas' hands. It's how the Falcons will turn back the blitzes and force teams to cover the short passes. The Falcons need to get back into the screen and short-crossing-route game to make sure that Ryan isn't killed all year.


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Beating Teams Deep

Harry Douglas ran only a 4.51 at the combine (h/t NFL Draft Scout), but he's got the ability to burn defenses deep with his sneaky quickness. He showed this against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a pair of catches for over 30 yards—one for 54 yards and a 37-yard TD reception.

It's an element that was supposed to be missing when Julio Jones went down with a season-ending foot injury in Week 5. Jones' 4.38 speed has been and will continue to be missed, but Douglas' ability to take a double move and turn it into a touchdown compensates to some degree for Jones' absence.

On the 37-yard touchdown catch against the Bucs, he fools the defense with a quick post cut and then cuts again deep to get open behind the DBs. The double move had Tampa Bay completely confused. If Matt Ryan doesn't underthrow it, Douglas easily catches it in the end zone against any defense.

Another great usage of Douglas is on a screen play like this one. Douglas doesn't run the screen. Instead, he runs the wheel route on top of it in the open area of the defense and burns the Giants for 37 yards, using his speed and good route-running skills.

Douglas can do this against anyone, though. The Falcons just have to make sure they continually hit him short with screens and shorter post routes to open up the deeper routes. Otherwise, they are just wasting his ability to be a game-changing deep threat.


All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.

Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.