Falcons' Cone wants to be a vertical threat

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Without much hesitation, unheralded Atlanta Falcons receiver Kevin Cone responded to whether he could be a Julio Jones-type vertical threat for Matt Ryan.

"I think I can," Cone said with confidence. "How fast am I? I’m definitely not as fast as Julio."

Actually, a local reporter familiar with Cone, who is a Georgia Tech product, touted him as having 4.2-speed in the 40.

"4.2? (Cone) told you that," Ryan said with a laugh. "No, Kevin is a big, strong guy. Athletic guy. Good speed. Smart, smart player. Again, he was a guy who filled in for us last week at the end of the game and came up with a big, third-down conversion."

But can the 6-foot-2, 216-pound Cone truly be a threat down the field? Ryan had grown accustomed to having Jones as his safety net on big plays. This season alone, Jones had three plays of 40-plus yards before suffering a season-ending foot injury Monday night. Included in the total was an 81-yard catch-and run touchdown against the St. Louis Rams.

"It's tough to replicate what he can do," Ryan said of Jones.

In steps Cone, one of two untested receivers expected to get increased reps with Jones done for the season and Roddy White (hamstring, ankle) banged up. Drew Davis (6-1, 204) also will get more looks. Plus, the Falcons are set to sign veteran Brian Robiskie (6-4, 212), who has familiarity with the offense based on his father, Terry, being the Falcons’ wide receivers coach.

The Falcons' vertical game hasn't been as potent this year due to injuries and concerns along the offensive line. Ryan has been forced to get the ball out much quicker this season.

Cone, from suburban Atlanta, might be the most intriguing of the bunch. He transferred to Georgia Tech from Shorter University, located 70 miles north of Atlanta. At Georgia Tech, he began his career as the starter opposite current Denver Broncos standout Demaryius Thomas before suffering a broken ankle. Cone had six catches for 89 yards (long of 38) and one touchdown in the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense during the 2010 season.

The Falcons signed Cone as an undrafted free-agent in 2011, waived him and then re-signed him to the practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster for the final game of 2011. Last season, Cone played in 12 games on special teams before being placed on injured reserve (groin).

The 12-yard, third-down conversion Ryan raved about from Monday night was Cone’s first-career catch. Now with the receiving corps depleted, Cone should have an opportunity to add to his total.

"I'm going to take full advantage of it and give everything I have, just like every other day," Cone said. "Our offense is very explosive, powerful. And we’re not expecting to slow down one bit."

And by the way, Cone said his best 40 time was more like a 4.4.