The Maturation of Roddy White

Roddy White

I’m a fan of the Atlanta Falcons.  I’ve been a fan of the Falcons since 2002; the same season where the Falcons went to the playoffs with first-year starter Michael Vick.  One of the Falcons’ big problems over the next two years was the need of a play-making wide receiver to help out Vick.  The Falcons obtained Peerless Price in order to help out the Falcons’ offense.  After years of under production from the WR corps, the Falcons drafted Sharod “Roddy” White with their first-round pick in 2005.  Roddy White, from Alabama-Birmingham University (UAB), was brought in for his capability to make explosive plays, along with adding another dimension to a one-dimensional offense of the Falcons.

In Roddy’s first season, Roddy made his first catch against the Vikings in 2005, where he had two catches for twelve yards in a 30-1o victory.  A couple of weeks later, White caught his first touchdown against the Green Bay Packers.  Roddy ended that game with two catches for twenty-two yards.  The next game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Roddy White had his first 100-yard receiving performance where he caught four passes for 108 yards.  For the season overall, White ended with 29 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns.

After his first season, many Atlanta Falcons fans felt that the best was yet to come for the young Roddy White.  The next season, in 2006, Roddy White surely had his ups and downs.  Even with his ability to quickly get downfield and get open, White’s kryptonite came with the amount of dropped passes.  Roddy’s inability to catch passes on a regular basis set the Falcons’ offense back some and placed more pressure for the running game and Michael Vick to make plays.  The lowest point of the season came in a home game against the New Orleans Saints in week twelve.  In this game, there were many drops from Falcons receivers, but Roddy had one of the most talked-about drops where he dropped a touchdown pass in the endzone.  It was surely a low point in Roddy White’s young career.  People were already starting to call the young receiver a bust.  Roddy White ended the thirty catches for 506 yards, but zero touchdowns.

Before the beginning of the 2007 season, there were many things that occurred that turned the Atlanta Falcons organization around.  The indictment of Michael Vick, which I won’t go into detail about (since it’s been beaten down to the core), the firing of Jim Mora Jr. and the hiring of Bobby Petrino.  There were two events though that occurred that were least talked about:  the signing of veteran receiver Joe Horn and the signing of Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator.  Hue Jackson previously served as the Wide Receivers coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, where he helped receivers Chad Ochocinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Chris Henry become household names around the league.  These two signings proved to be the turning point in Roddy White’s career.

In a season where the Atlanta Falcons struggled to a 4-12 record, Roddy White was one of the shining spots on the Falcons team.  Roddy White had five games of 100+ receiving yards.  White also became the Atlanta Falcons first wide receiver to reach 1,000 yards receiving for a season since Terance Mathis did it in 1999.  I was personally amazed on the progress Roddy White made within a season that had so many down points for the Falcons.  Roddy White ended the season with 83 catches for 1,202 yards and six touchdowns.  Keep in mind, Roddy White had Chris Redman, Joey Harrington, and Byron Leftwich as the quarterbacks throwing to him.  At this point, all Roddy White needed was a franchise quarterback to consistently deliver him the ball and become a major threat.

Fast-forward to April 26, 2008.  The Atlanta Falcons drafted quarterback Matt Ryan from Boston College with their first-round pick.  Many Falcons fans thought that with Matt Ryan now the face of the Falcons franchise, Roddy White could blossom and improve off his breakout campaign from the 2007 season.  Another piece to the puzzle that was added was the signing of Terry Robiskie, who was determined to make Roddy White a bigger threat at the WR position.   During the 2008 season, Matt Ryan proved to be the answer for the quarterback position in Atlanta.  The Matt Ryan-Roddy White connection proved to be legit in every aspect.  Roddy White ended the year with seven games with 100+ yards receiving.  Roddy also had his first multi-touchdown game against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 8.  Roddy White was apart of a campaign that led the new-look Falcons to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.  Roddy White’s final number for the season:  88 catches, 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns.  More importantly though, a first-ever Pro Bowl spot for the improving Roddy White.

My Roddy White Jersey

During the off-season of 2009, Roddy White held-out in order to receive a better fitted contract based off of his two previous high-productive seasons.  Knowing how important White was to the Falcons offense and organization overall, he was re-signed to a six-year, $48 million dollar contract.  Fast-forward to the 2009 season, where future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez was signed to add another dimension to the Falcons offense, White improved even more.  In week five, Roddy White had his best game of his career where he caught 8 passes for a career-high 210 yards and two touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers.  I remember being at a friend’s house and seeing the game and saying to myself, “Roddy White can no longer be ignored”.  However, I still felt that even after two productive seasons and a breakout game, Roddy White still did not receive the credit for being one of the top receivers in the NFL.  By the end of the 2009 season, White became more of a bigger presence throughout the NFL where he caught 85 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns.

We are currently approaching week 8 of the 2010 campaign, where Roddy White leads the league with 54 catches for 747 yards and five touchdowns through seven games.  The most impressive statistic, however, is something that cannot be seen with the numbers that were just talked about.  Throughout seven games, Roddy White does not have a dropped pass (knocks on wood).  White is the only player with 35+ receptions without a dropped pass so far throughout this season.  In his last game against the Cincinnati Bengals on October 24th, Roddy White had 11 catches for 201 yards and two touchdowns.  It was this game where people around the league started talking about Roddy White being one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL.  It was this game where analysts and spectators started believing that Roddy White is now a wide receiver that teams have to game plan against.

When people ask me who is my favorite player from the Atlanta Falcons, I easily say Roddy White.  I have had the pleasure of watching Roddy White go from the being talked about as being a potential wasted talent, to arguably one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.  I have had the pleasure of watching Roddy White go from being an unfocused, unpolished athlete to a sharp, dangerous game-breaker.  Roddy still has a long way to go until his career is over, but lets hope that Sharod “Roddy” White can keep up this high level of play for many seasons to come.  I will sure to here to witness every moment.

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