First-timers to a Falcons practice session were probably surprised to see Roddy White throwing passes during Tuesday's minicamp session, but it's not that uncommon at all. White himself said after practice, he's been acting as a practice QB for years, but he's not interested in quitting his day job. White's day job is at wide receiver, but for this week, throwing some passes is about the extent of his work.
Head coach Mike Smith said after practice Tuesday that White will not practice during this week's minicamp sessions, joining receiver Julio Jones on the sidelines as watchers of practice rather than participants. But just because they're not watching doesn't mean they're not involved.
"I think if you sit back and watch Roddy and Julio when they're not participating, they're watching very intently," Smith said. "They're watching the guys that are out there playing their position so they can make comments (in the meeting room)."
Jones and White are expected to be healthy and ready for the season when training camp rolls around and all the changes that have taken place on offense could benefit them the most. Jones was on pace for a career year last season before his injury, and that was without White on the field most of the time. An improved run game and better pass protection will make the Matt Ryan-to-Jones/White connection even more deadly.
One of the stars of the offense in recent years in addition to Jones and White was Tony Gonzalez, the future Hall-of-Fame tight end that retired last year. Gonzalez's 83 catches and eight touchdowns will have to be replaced somewhere and White thinks an additional wide receiver could get it done.
"I don't think (the offense) will be too much different," White said. "We'll probably stay in a lot more three-wideouts, four-wideout sets. We lost Tony, but we've got Harry (Douglas). We've got Devin Hester. Those guys are really quick, fast, make-you-miss guys."
In addition to Douglas, who eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving last year, the Falcons have Drew Davis returning and Darius Johnson should be the immediate top candidate for one of the final wide receiver positions.
The Falcons have also mentioned experimenting on offense this season and Hester is the kind of player to make that happen. Additionally, players like running back Antone Smith could see expanded roles, including as pass catchers out of the backfield. On Tuesday, during one 11-on-11 session, Smith was lined up out wide with Hester in the slot. The slot wide receiver could see plenty of players this year, including Jones and White.
"Julio will have to go in the slot a little bit, me too," White said. "We'll have to find ways for all of us, between three or four of us, catch those 85 passes that Tony leaves out there every year. We'll find a way to get it done."