Cards prepare for Douglas as primary target

TEMPE, Ariz. – Last week, Atlanta Falcons receiver Harry Douglas caught seven passes for a career-high 149 yards. The week before that he had two catches, one for 7 yards and the other for minus-1 yard.

That’s just how Douglas’ career has gone. One game he can blow up, the next he’s barely a glimmer in quarterback Matt Ryan’s progressions. That’s what happens when you’re the fourth option behind two of the game’s best in wide receiver Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez and another top receiver in Roddy White.

But that’s all about to change for Douglas. Jones is out for the season, and White’s status for Sunday’s game is uncertain as he recovers from hamstring and ankle injuries. Douglas was Ryan’s primary option last week without White, and that title will most likely carry over to this weekend.

And the Arizona Cardinals are preparing as such.

“Harry Douglas is, I think, one of the most underrated receivers in the league,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.

Falcons coach Mike Smith said Douglas is a product of an overcrowded situation. There are only so many passes to go around, and those are typically earmarked for Jones, White and Gonzalez. But Atlanta’s staff was confident he’d respond if ever needed, Smith said.

Sure, Douglas, who’s had 31 and 48 yards receiving in his two games against the Cardinals, has been overshadowed by his talented peers, but he proved he was capable of being a reliable threat last weekend. And that didn’t surprise Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers.

“He’s definitely Ryan’s No. 1 target and Ryan gave him the ball,” Powers said. “He’s been doing what he’s always done and he’s caught the ball well and gets a lot of yards-after-catch, so he’s definitely a dependable receiver. I think Matt knew he was very dependable and what he was capable of. So I don’t think it was surprising to anybody.”

Last weekend was Douglas’ second career game of more than 100 yards, and he has three others with more than 90. This season, Arizona has allowed four players to get at least 100 receiving yards, and three were tight ends.

To avoid another 100-yard day by an opponent, Powers said there’s no special formula to stopping Douglas. If White doesn’t play, the passing game will be funneled through Douglas again, making the Cardinals’ focus obvious.

But that doesn’t mean Douglas will go down without a fight.

“Just know that he’s going to try all the savvy vet moves to get open,” Powers said. “You just got to retaliate and make sure you do your job better than he does his.”