Today’s AJC included an 865-word mea culpa from yours truly to Kyle Shanahan. Due to space constrictions, I didn’t mention someone who was one of the biggest names in Flowery Branch for more than a decade and left without a kind word for the Atlanta Falcons’ current offensive coordinator. I did not mention Roddy White.
White was largely ignored as a on-field target last season, after which he was cut. Lots of people, the man himself included, thought this constituted a willful act of neglect/disrespect. Here we make two notations:
1. White, who turned 35 last month, hasn’t played in the NFL this season.
2. Mohamed Sanu, his nominal replacement as No. 2 receiver, has been better than White was last year.
White in 2015: Targeted 70 times in 16 games; 43 receptions for 506 yards and one touchdown; averaged 2.7 catches and 30.3 yards per game; had a catch percentage (catches divided by targets) of 61.4; averaged 11.8 yards per catch; longest reception was 25 yards.
Sanu in 2016: Targeted 73 times in 13 games; 52 receptions for 565 yards and three touchdowns; is averaging 4.0 receptions and 43.5 yards per game; has a catch percentage of 71.2; is averaging 10.2 yards per catch; longest reception is 59 yards.
There’s not a massive difference in any single category, but there is an aggregate difference. We can’t know if Shanahan ignored White out of spite (though it’s unclear why someone running an offense wouldn’t seek to maximize every resource) or if White, who had six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2007 through 2012, simply couldn’t get open anymore.
We can, however, know this: White in 2015 didn’t have a game where he caught every pass thrown his way; of the 16 passes thrown toward Sanu over his past four games, he has caught 15. And he did haul down the game-winner against Green Bay with 31 seconds remaining. White’s one touchdown of 2015 came in the first half of a game the Falcons trailed by 14 points and would lose by 10.
Sanu is second among Falcons in times targeted. The Falcons have thrown the ball toward Jones 40 more times than to Sanu. White was fourth among Falcons in targets last season, when the ball was thrown his way 133 fewer times than Julio’s. I’m pretty sure no offense wants that much of a separation between its No. 1 and No. 2. I’m absolutely sure the issue has been addressed.
The intent here isn’t to tweak Roddy White. There was a time when he ranked alongside Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson as the NFL’s best receiver. But he ceased being the Falcons’ No. 1 shortly after Julio arrived — White’s age was among the reasons Thomas Dimitroff traded five picks for the chance to draft the Alabama man — and he obviously wasn’t what Shanahan had in mind. And we can’t say the Falcons have suffered in his absence, can we?