Why the Falcons need a speed receiver

As we’ve been looking ahead to the 2011 draft, we’ve mentioned several times that there’s a decent chance the Atlanta Falcons could be looking to add some help at wide receiver.

But let’s look a little more closely at why the Falcons need help and what type of receiver they might be looking to add. The short answers are they could use a speed receiver to stretch the field and help the entire offense.

Atlanta has one of the league’s best all-around receivers in Roddy White. No. 2 receiver Michael Jenkins missed part of last season with an injury and is more of a role player. He’s a big and physical guy, who helps the offense as a possession receiver and a run blocker.

The Falcons had hoped Harry Douglas would have a breakout season as a slot receiver. But that didn’t really happen. There still is some hope that Douglas can blossom because last season marked his return from a significant knee injury. The Falcons also think they might be able to get some more big plays out of Eric Weems, who starred as a return man. At the moment, Douglas and Weems are the two guys who might be able to help White and quarterback Matt Ryan stretch the field. Kerry Meier is coming back from an injury that forced him to miss his rookie year, but he’s projected to fill the jack-of-all-trades role of veteran Brian Finneran. At the moment, Finneran is not under contract and the Falcons didn’t make any attempt to re-sign him before the lockout.

Are Weems and Douglas enough to solve this? Well, if they step up, maybe. But they were part of last year’s receiving corps and these numbers from ESPN Stats & Information aren’t very complimentary of Atlanta’s deep passing game.

On passes of 21 yards or more downfield, Ryan completed 38.5 percent of his passes to White and three of them went for touchdowns. When throwing that same distance for other receivers, Ryan only completed 16 percent of his passes for one touchdown.

Average that out and Ryan completed 23.7 percent of his passes of 21 yards or more and that ranked No. 28 in the league. In fact, the Falcons attempted 38 passes of 21 yards or more, which tied them for 30th in the league and had only nine receptions, which tied them for 31st in the league.