Falcons dipping into WR reserves, without Jones, White
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — When the Falcons host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, their wide receivers will consist of one player living with his parents, another who could be and a third who often gets mixed up with the backup quarterback.
Yes, that's newly signed Brian Robiskie, currently living with his parents, as his father, Terry, is the Falcons wide receivers/assistant head coach; metro area native Kevin Cone, who attended St. Pius X High School and Georgia Tech; and Drew Davis, not to be confused with quarterback Dominique Davis.
All told, that trio has one catch for 12 yards on the season. That reception came from Cone — the only one of his career — in the Falcons' home loss to the Jets two weeks ago.
With both Julio Jones (foot injury) done for the season, and Roddy White (hamstring, knee maladies) potentially out, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez expects to be double-teamed against the Bucs &mdsah; which is nothing new to him.
In the past, opposing defenses have had to choose which players to double — Gonzalez, White or Jones. The wideouts' absence makes the decision rather obvious for Tampa Bay.
"It makes it a little bit more difficult," quarterback Matt Ryan said of Gonzalez warranting double coverage. "You have to recognize that sometimes in those double teams you have to move on and you have to find other guys."
Those other guys have a big void to fill now. Even usual No. 3 wide receiver, Harry Douglas, who plays the slot, will have bigger shoes to fill, possibly as the No. 1 option.
Nonetheless, Gonzalez expressed confidence in Atlanta's receiving depth, calling them "good players."
"(The receivers) have to come in and make plays for us," Gonzalez said. "That's all there is to it. There’s no other way around it. Either you do it or you don’t do it. ... It's where I expect them to come up and fill in just like a starter would.
"Call me optimistic, that's the way you have to think, and I hope that's the way they're thinking because they're talented, and they're capable players and you have a guy like Matt Ryan throwing you the ball.
"Hopefully, that makes it a little bit easier for them and takes away a little bit of pressure from them. All you got to do is get a couple inches open and Matt will put the ball right on you."
According to Gonzalez, Ryan has been putting in extra work after practice with the young receivers. He cited that as one example of how the Falcons are not giving up on the season, recommitting themselves to working hard and turning around a 1-4 start.
Davis, an undrafted free agent out of Oregon in his second season, said that playing the No. 2 wide receiver is no different than the No. 4 spot.
"We've been running the same routes all year, through the summer and through the past years I’ve been here," he said, "so, it's not so much running the routes differently, it's probably getting more reps at them, which is probably better, more timing with Matt. It ends up working out in the end."
As a rookie, Davis caught four passes for 40 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown against Philadelphia. He and Cone, in his third season with the Falcons, have a good deal of familiarity with the offense but not a lot of production playing behind the likes of White, Jones and Douglas.
Combined, Davis and Cone have five career receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown.
On the flip side is Robiskie, signed last week, who has more NFL production but less familiarity with the offense. He has 43 receptions for 485 yards and four touchdowns (over five seasons).
The trick for Robiskie will be learning the offense in short order. He's living with his parents — "I'm with them right now but we’ll see how long that lasts," he said — though not commuting with his father, who keeps much later hours with the other coaches.
Asked if father and son go over the offense at home, Brian Robiskie said he tries not to.
"They keep us over here enough," he said. "When we come home, we're trying to keep it separate as possible but at the same time we can't really get past the situation so if I got a question he's a yell away, as opposed to a phone call."
Brian, 25, hasn't lived with his parents since his high school. His father is a grizzled, NFL lifer who has moved around, with other stints in Miami, Cleveland, Washington and Oakland.
For his part, Brian played for a BCS national championship at Ohio State in 2008 and has also seen his share of the league, having spent time with Cleveland, Detroit and Jacksonville.
"It's like being back home," Brian said. "Like being in high school or something like that. Not bad at all."
A few catches would make it even better.