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In The Clutch


A lot of focus came on Falcons wide receiver Roddy White last season for an increased number of dropped passes over his recent years. Despite the drops, White still had another banner year, keeping him in the conversation over the league's top receivers. His 1,296 yards last year marked his fifth straight 1,000-yard season and helped place him as the franchise's all-time receiving yards leader with 7,374.

Even though the drops increased some in a year that many around the Falcons describe as a year of inconsistency, White was still a major player for quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons in the clutch. In key moments of every game, Ryan found White when the chains needed to continue to move.

Ryan connected with White for 35 catches on third down last season. That total led the league in third-down catches. 29 of his 35 catches resulted in first downs. Last year White also set the franchise record with 77 first-down receptions on the season. That total also tied for the NFL lead.

The receiver's clutch play has long been a trait helpful to the Falcons. In 2010, White's 36 receptions on third down was an NFL high. His 497 receiving yards on third down were also a league best. 29 of his 36 catches went for first downs. He also had five touchdown catches on third down, a stat that speaks to White's ability to get open for Ryan when the field is at its shortest. His 73 first-down receptions led the league that season.

What White has done in two straight years since bursting onto the scene in 2007, finally putting together the physical and dependable play the Falcons envisioned when they drafted him in the first round of the 2005 draft, shows how reliable and valuable White is to the Falcons offense. Two straight seasons of leading the league in third-down catches and being No. 1 or tied for No. 1 in the league in first-down catches simply means White is a playmaker of the highest order.

White accomplished all of this with a strong running game emphasis, a future Hall of Fame tight end on the field and the addition of dynamic first-round receiver Julio Jones in 2011. With so many options on the field, White was still Ryan's go-to player. A title like that makes the Falcons offense look even more dangerous moving forward as Jones continues to emerge as a big-play option.

Since 2008, White leads the NFL with 120 catches and 102 first downs on third down. His 13 touchdowns on third down is tied for the second most in the NFL.

As White enters his eighth season in the NFL, all indications are that he's still in the prime of his career. With him headlining Atlanta's roster of offensive weapons, new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will have an opportunity to unleash an offense on the NFL that he never saw materialize in the same role in Jacksonville due to the lack of playmakers.

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