Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Wide receivers


060716 FLOWERY BRANCH: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones confer during practice on an OTA day, Tuesday, June 7, 2016, in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

060716 FLOWERY BRANCH: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones confer during practice on an OTA day, Tuesday, June 7, 2016, in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

(Over the offseason, we’ll take a look at each of the position groups. Today, we look at the wide receivers.)

FLOWERY BRANCH – All-Pro Julio Jones had already taken over as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, but in 2016 he must fill the leadership vacuum created by the release of Roddy White, the franchise’s all-time leading receiver.

“Now, for the younger guys, I’m the guy to look up to and I’m willing to teach guys,” Jones said. “I learned a lot from Roddy about being a great teammate, about bringing other guys, the young guys, with you and showing them the right way to go out here and play the game of football.”

White, the franchise’s all-time leading receiver in catches (808), yards (10,863) and touchdowns (63), was released in March.

The Falcons replaced him by signing Mohamed Sanu in free agency. Jones has been helping him learn Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system.

“It’s a lot different from what we ran in Cincinnati, but with a lot of key similarities,” Sanu said. “I’m just trying to learn those differences and master them as fast as I can so that I can get accustomed to them.”

Sanu, 26, has caught 61 percent (152 of 249) of his targets in four seasons with the Bengals. He has amassed 1,793 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Sanu was selected in the third-round (83rd overall) of the 2012 draft. He was lured to the Falcons with a five-year, $32.5 million contract.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, left, throws a pass as teammates Levine Toilolo, center and Mohamed Sanu, right, high-five one another during an NFL football practice Monday, May 23, 2016, in Flowery Branch. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, left, throws a pass as teammates Levine Toilolo, center and Mohamed Sanu, right, high-five one another during an NFL football practice Monday, May 23, 2016, in Flowery Branch. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

“Sanu, they kind of overpaid him, but they had to for what they needed as a No. 2 receiver,” a high ranking NFL personnel man told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s a good receiver. He’s not a great receiver. With what they had, they had to get somebody.”

Sanu believes he’ll eventually fit well into the Falcons’ offense.

“I can do a lot of different things well,” Sanu said.  “I can line up all over the field. I just feel like I can be utilized inside, outside or in the backfield or wherever I’m needed to make this offense as best as it can be.”

Sanu, a former high school quarterback, has completed five of five passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns in the NFL.

The Falcons haven’t installed the flanker-reverse-pass yet.

“It’s very new, but if the opportunity comes, I’m going to take advantage of it,” Sanu said. “I’m very ready.”

Justin Hardy, a second-year player from East Carolina, and Aldrick Robinson have the inside tracks for the No. 3 and No. 4 wide receiver slots.

Jones believes the offense is going to throw more deep passes in 2016.

“We are going to take a lot more chances and shots down the field,”  he said.

Jones believes that having speedy Robinson will help the deep passing game.

“Aldrick Robinson is another speedy, down-the-field guy,” Jones said. “He can go get the ball where ever it’s at. He’s up to speed as well. He’s got great hand and can go get the ball.”

While the Falcons want to go deep more, Shanahan doesn’t want to force the ball into coverage.

“You always look at that after each game, when did you have (a one-on-one deep opportunity) and when did you not,” Shanahan said. “Explosive plays, I think this will be my ninth year calling plays, it’s really never been an issue. We didn’t get as many last year.”

Most teams tend to double-cover Jones, which may free Robinson as an option.

Special teamer Eric Weems is back while returner Devin Hester is trying to make it back from offseason toe/foot surgery.

Ryan impressed with David Glidden

Which undrafted player is going to make the team? (J.D. McKissic)

WIDE RECEIVERS

11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 17 Devin Hester, 87 Devin Fuller, 18 Jordan Leslie, 12 Mohamed Sanu, 14 Eric Weems, 15 Nick Williams, 19 Aldrick Robinson, 85 J.D. McKissic, 89 Daje Johnson, 7 David Glidden

90-MAN ROSTER ANALYSIS — POSITION BY POSITION

Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Quarterbacks

Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Running backs

Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Linebackers

Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Specialists

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Shanahan thinks offense will change thrive with cut in turnovers

Matt Ryan’s film session with AJC columnist Jeff Schultz

Alex Mack, Falcons looks good for one another

PROJECT PASS RUSH

Dan Quinn pressing all buttons to create a pass rush

How does drafting Keanu Neal help the pass rush?

DL line coach Bryan Cox: Hageman needs to improve his play

LB coach Jeff Ulbrich: ‘Cream will rise’ at linebacker for Falcons

Defensive coordinator Richard Smith pleased with early progress of the defense

Falcons still have a spot for DT Jonathan Babineaux

Dwight Freeney 95 percent certain that he will play in 2016

Falcons working 80 percent of time on pass rush

Weatherspoon on Freeney: ‘He still has it’

FALCONS’ OFFSEASON SPOTLIGHTS

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: OG Wes Schweizter, sixth round pick

Falcons offseason spotlight: LB De’Vondre Campbell, fourth round pick

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: TE Austin Hooper, third round pick

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: LB Deion Jones, second round pick

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: SS Keanu Neal, first round pick

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: DE/SLB Vic Beasley

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: DT Grady Jarrett

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: FS Robenson Therezie

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: CB Jalen Collins

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: RB Tevin Coleman

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: WR Justin Hardy

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