Battle For Falcons’ Final WR Spot Expected to Drag On

Battle For Falcons’ Final WR Spot Expected to Drag On

Jay Adams

Published June 29, 2012 at 11:19 AM

Falcons wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie has quite the battle on his hands, and he’s expecting it to rage on for quite a while. Losing Eric Weems during free agency was certainly a hit to the Falcons’ special teams units, but it has also put the state of the wide receiving corps in a bit of flux during the offseason.

The Falcons’ wide receiving unit is one that gets its fair share of the spotlight, with the combination of Roddy White and Julio Jones being one of the best in the NFL. But every spot on the Falcons’ 53-man roster is crucial, and the open void left by Weems’ departure is one Robiskie is focused on filling.

With a roster filled with candidates, Robiskie certainly has his pick. Two in particular — Kevin Cone and Drew Davis — would seem to be the likely favorites after spending a year on the practice squad in 2011, but college free agents James Rodgers, Michael Calvin, Marcus Jackson and Kenny Stafford can’t be overlooked.

“We’ve got to find someone who can step up and be Eric Weems,” Robiskie said. “Somebody here was Eric Weems before Eric Weems, so we’ve got to have somebody that wants to step up with the group I have. Somebody’s got to step up and say, ‘Hey, Coach. Eric Weems left. I know what he did, I know the contribution he made and what a good player he was. Coach, I want that job.’

“Whichever one of my guys is going to do that through… training camp and preseason games, he’ll be the guy that’ll have that spot.”

Robiskie doesn’t expect this decision to be made lightly. In fact, he said he expects the battle for that final wide receiver spot going all the way through 2012 Russell Athletic Training Camp and the entire preseason.

Cone, who was a late addition to the Falcons’ training camp roster in 2011, took the opportunity presented to him last year and ran with it. A wide receiver from an option-happy Georgia Tech offense, Cone caught just five passes in his college career before earning a spot on the Falcons’ practice squad before eventually making his way to the 53-man roster for the final game of the regular season and the wild-card matchup against the Giants.

Davis was another college free agent last season who turned in an impressive training camp to earn a practice squad spot. The Oregon product honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors and was a co-recipient of the Todd Doxey Award, given to the Oregon player who exemplifies the traits of dedication associated with being an outstanding teammate as a senior. He caught 42 passes for 470 yards and three touchdowns in 2010 and helped lead the Ducks to the BCS National Championship Game. In four seasons in with the Ducks, Davis appeared in 46 games and caught 73 passes for 823 yards with six touchdowns.

With Robiskie expecting the preseason to be the proving ground for his younger wide receivers, Davis said he’s putting a lot of emphasis on making the most of those four exhibition games to impress Robiskie — as well as special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.

“I do, because most people don’t get a chance to play in the season, so the preseason is a chance to prove yourself not only on offense, but on special teams, too. That’s where you’re getting evaluated a lot, too. Going in there, making sure you’re popping up on film — whether it’s offense, special teams or just making sure you’re in the film when the game ends is most important.”

Built most like Weems and a darkhorse candidate for kick and punt return duties, Rodgers — brother of Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers — finished his career as one of the greatest receivers and all-purpose players in Oregon State history. He established a school record with 222 career receptions, including an OSU record 91 catches in 2009. He also set the Oregon State career record with 6,377 all-purpose yards and is the first player in OSU history with 1,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards receiving.

Calvin’s college career at Cal was derailed by a knee injury, which dropped him on the depth chart, but he’s capable of putting up solid numbers with a 6-2, 210-pound frame.

Jackson, a product of Lamar University in the Southland Conference, is the first player out of its football program to reach the NFL since the school reinstituted the sport two years ago. He caught 65 passes for 1,159 yards and 14 touchdowns during his two seasons at Lamar.

Stafford, out of Toledo, was a tryout invite during the Falcons’ rookie minicamp in May. He caught 21 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown in 2011 at Toledo.

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