FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Roddy White and Julio Jones are the Atlanta Falcons’ dynamic duo, wide receivers whose identities seem to mirror each other.
White and Jones share Alabama roots, an interest in cars, and a camaraderie rare at a position where the star players are known to cop the attitudes of divas.
What they don’t share is a nickname.
“I call them ‘1 and 1-A,’ ” Falcons coach Mike Smith said, without identifying which is which.
White, an eighth-year veteran from Alabama-Birmingham, is older than Jones, a second-year product of Alabama. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Jones poses a more daunting match-up challenge than White, a 6-footer who weighs 211 pounds.
The Falcons selected White as the 27th overall pick in the 2005 draft. They jumped through several more hoops to take Jones, at No. 6, in 2011.
Otherwise, this is a package deal, sort of like Bigfoot and Sasquatch, or Siegfried and Roy, or Cain and Abel: You can’t talk about one without talking about the other.
“I’ve never played on a team that can line up two outside guys the way we do,” Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has been playing on NFL teams since 1997, said Thursday. “I might have seen somebody else do that a couple of times, like Jerry Rice and John Taylor.”
Rice and Taylor, 49ers teammates between 1987 and ’95, rank among the most accomplished of wide receiving tandems in NFL history. At the top of the list is the Colts’ Raymond Berry and Lenny Moore, both enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (So is the man who threw touchdown passes to them, Johnny Unitas.)
Lynn Swann and John Stallworth gave the Steelers a dynamite dual threat during the 1970s, before Art Monk and Gary Clark teamed up for the Redskins in the 1980s.
More recently, the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin carried on the tradition of the one-two downfield punch, along with the Colts’ Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. Their best season together, in 2006, helped quarterback Peyton Manning to his only Super Bowl victory.
The numbers Wayne and Harrison combined to produce in 2006 – 181 receptions for 2,676 yards and 21 touchdowns – were nearly matched in 2012 by White and Jones: 171 receptions for 2,549 yards and 17 touchdowns.
White is not in a mood to evaluate the collaboration. He showed up in the Falcons’ locker room, noticed several reporters waiting in front of his locker, and announced, “I’m not talkin’ till Sunday.”
White was smiling as he said it, but the next public words he speaks about the game against the Seahawks on Sunday will be his first.
Feel free to presume White just wants to be careful about giving Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman any grist for trash talk. Otherwise, life is good for the receiver denied a fifth consecutive Pro Bowl invitation while Jones, his friend and teammate, got his first.
“When we traded up to draft Julio last year,” White recalled in November, “I was like, OK, can we be more of an explosive team, get in the playoffs and win more football games? Julio is only helping me.”
Jones is helping everybody on the Falcons, from Gonzalez – often facing single coverage on game day – to the Atlanta defensive backs who face their “1 and 1-A” receiver teammates in practice.
“Between Julio, with his size and speed, and Roddy – one of the best there is – I doubt many teams are as athletic as we are at receiver,” safety Thomas DeCoud said. “There’s not too many reps we get to take off.”
As for the Atlanta offensive linemen whose primary job is to afford quarterback Matt Ryan time to distribute the ball between the wideouts and tight end Gonzalez, they’re having a blast.
“These guys are playing really well right now, they can score from anywhere on the field,” Falcons center Todd McClure said of White and Jones. “It’s exciting. For us up front, you’re blocking, you see a big play like that – and we’ve had several this year – it’s fun. I think it’ll show up Sunday.”
Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary versus the Falcons’ “1 and 1-A” receivers: Could it be as simple as that?
“It’s what everybody’s talking about,” McClure continued. “You look back on this game Sunday afternoon, whoever wins that match-up will probably be successful. There’s a lot more to it, but I think that will be one deciding factor.”
Memo to the Seahawks: White and Jones are not a fire-and-ice collaboration designed to balance each other’s weaknesses. They are a collaboration of fire and, well, more fire.
The irony awaiting Sunday is that there will be a Sherman in Atlanta, determined to put every fire email@example.com