2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Backup receivers filling big shoes in Atlanta

By PAUL NEWBERRY - AP Sports Writer
    2013-10-24 17:43

ATLANTA (AP) - Just 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Darius Johnson could pass for one of the equipment guys in the Atlanta Falcons locker room.

Even so, the Falcons receiver barely fits into one of the tiny lockers they dole out to practice squad players.

''I need one of those bigger lockers,'' Johnson said, looking enviously around the room. ''I'm so scrunched up in here.''

If he has another game like the last one, he'll certainly be in line for more spacious digs.

Johnson, who was promoted from the practice squad 24 hours before the Falcons faced Tampa Bay last Sunday, had two catches in a much-needed victory over the Buccaneers.

He wasn't the only one who stepped up, either.

Harry Douglas, long the No. 3 receiver behind Julio Jones and Roddy White, had seven catches for a career-best 149 yards. Drew Davis made a brilliant one-handed grab along the sideline. And, most stunning of all, the diminutive Johnson contributed right away.

''I wouldn't say it was expected,'' Johnson said, ''but I wasn't surprised.''

There will likely be more chances for these no-name receivers to shine.

Jones is out for the year after undergoing foot surgery, while White has been plagued by injuries all season. He went down with a high ankle sprain during the preseason, and now is also dealing with a hamstring problem that forced him to miss the first game of his nine-year career. He has yet to practice this week and it seems more and more unlikely he'll play when the Falcons (2-4) travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals (3-4) on Sunday.

''Those are some big shoes to feel,'' Johnson said, adding that having Matt Ryan at quarterback made things easier. ''He's going put the ball where it needs to be. It's all about timing with the quarterback and the receiver. To get those two passes that I got in the game, it was great coming from Matt Ryan, to know that he had the confidence in me to throw me the ball.''

Douglas has long been solid contributor for the Falcons, though it's hard to get noticed much when you're playing behind two of the NFL's top receivers.

''It was nice to see those guys get their opportunity to contribute,'' coach Mike Smith said Thursday. ''We've known for a long time that Harry Douglas is an outstanding receiver. We just haven't had an opportunity to always target him because of the other guys on our football team. There's only so many passes you can throw.''

While Douglas may have played up to the Falcons' expectations, Davis has only four career catches before facing the Bucs, while Johnson was a total unknown heading into NFL debut.

Neither was drafted after college. Davis, who played at Oregon, spent most of his rookie season on special teams a year ago, though he did haul in first career touchdowns against the Eagles. Johnson, who played his college ball at SMU, had done his best to impress the coaches in practice, but his elevation to the main roster was largely due to the team's dire situation at receiver.

Until White gets healthy, opposing defenses are likely to gear their coverages toward tight end Tony Gonzalez. That's just what Tampa Bay did, holding the future Hall of Famer to a pair of catches for 30 yards - the fewest receptions he's had in a game this season.

The Cardinals are likely to mimic that strategy, which should give Douglas & Co. more opportunities.

They already have the confidence of their teammates.

''That's exactly what you want from backup players,'' Gonzalez said. ''Everybody is stepping up.''

Now, about Johnson's locker. Smith laughed when told of the rookie's predicament.

''I'll have to check on that,'' the coach said. ''If he has a couple of more catches like he had in the game last week, when you guys come in next week he may be in a different spot.''

NOTES: RB Stephen Jackson (hamstring) was still listed as limited in practice, but Smith said he essentially went through the full workout, boding well for his chances to play against the Cardinals. Atlanta's top runner has been out since a Week 2 victory over the Rams. ... OT Sam Baker (knee) was more hindered in the practice, but he will return to the lineup as soon as he's healthy enough to play, Smith said. ... Also missing practice along with White were RB Jason Snelling (ankle) and LB Stephen Nicholas (thigh).

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Jimmy StatenNov 26 09:43p

The Seattle Seahawks signed free-agent DT Jimmy Staten (Seahawks) to their practice squad Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also released OT Andrew McDonald from their practice squad.

Marcus ThigpenNov 26 09:03p

The Buffalo Bills claimed WR Marcus Thigpen off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also waived DE Bryan Johnson.

Richard GordonNov 26 09:03p

The Tennessee Titans waived TE Richard Gordon Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 08:33p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Dwayne AllenNov 26 07:33p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

C. PattersonNov 26 06:23p

Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jerick McKinnonNov 26 06:13p

Minnesota Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (back) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Brandon LaFellNov 26 06:03p

New England Patriots WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder) was limited during practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jace AmaroNov 26 05:13p

New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (head) is not expected to play in Week 13, because he is going through the concussion protocol.

Reggie BushNov 26 04:53p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle, back) was limited in practice for the third straight day Wednesday, Nov. 26, and is questionable for Week 13 against the Chicago Bears.

Jordan CameronNov 26 04:43p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) remains day-to-day, but the team is looking for him to practice symptom-free this week, according to head coach Mike Pettine.

Jordan ReedNov 26 04:13p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (hamstring) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

R. Griffin IIINov 26 02:53p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III needs more seasoning, and he'll likely do it from the bench for the rest of this season, according to head coach Jay Gruden. [ More ]

Arian FosterNov 26 02:33p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) has an excellent chance to return in Week 13 against the Tennessee Titans after missing the last two games.

Mark SanchezNov 26 02:23p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Mark Sanchez has thrown six interceptions this year, but all of them haven't been game-changing turnovers. In Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans, Sanchez thrived on [ More ]

Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 01:53p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) felt some progress in his sprained left medial collateral ligament Tuesday, Nov. 25, according to head coach Bruce Arians. Fitzgerald was pretty upset [ More ]

Julius ThomasNov 26 01:23p

Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) was limited at practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Phil LoadholtNov 26 12:33p

Minnesota Vikings OT Phil Loadholt (pectoral) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Geno SmithNov 26 12:23p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith will return to the starting quarterback role in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins, after QB Michael Vick saw only three starts. The [ More ]

Timothy WrightNov 26 10:43a

New England Patriots TE Tim Wright has 23 catches on 26 targets this season. 'Every time we throw to him it's a touchdown - we'll try to find him [ More ]

R. Griffin IIINov 26 09:43a

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III has officially been benched in favor of QB Colt McCoy in Week 13. Head coach Jay Gruden informed the team Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Colt McCoyNov 26 09:43a

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III has officially been benched in favor of QB Colt McCoy in Week 13. Head coach Jay Gruden informed the team Wednesday, Nov. 26.

R. Griffin IIINov 25 11:43p

The Washington Redskins are planning on benching QB Robert Griffin III for the Week 13 game against the Indianapolis Colts in favor of QB Colt McCoy. However, Griffin still [ More ]

Jace AmaroNov 25 05:13p

New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (concussion) is in concussion protocol, according to head coach Rex Ryan, after suffering the concussion in Week 12 against the Buffalo Bills.

R. Griffin IIINov 25 04:23p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III was named the starter for Week 13 against the Indianapolis Colts Monday, Nov. 24, by head coach Jay Gruden, but he left open [ More ]

Michael BushNov 25 04:13p

The Arizona Cardinals signed free-agent RB Michael Bush (Bears) and cut RB Kerwynn Williams Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Brandon McManusNov 25 03:43p

The Denver Broncos waived PK Brandon McManus Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Connor BarthNov 25 03:43p

The Denver Broncos signed free-agent PK Connor Barth (Buccaneers) to an undisclosed deal Tuesday, Nov. 25, after waiving PK Brandon McManus, according to a source.

Reggie BushNov 25 03:13p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) said he'll be ready to play Thursday, Nov. 27, after missing Week 12 with an ankle injury.

Latavius MurrayNov 25 02:43p

Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray (concussion) will undergo baseline testing for his concussion Tuesday, Nov. 25, according to a league source. He is feeling good, but he must go [ More ]

Brian HoyerNov 25 01:53p

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer was never in danger of being benched in favor of QB Johnny Manziel in the team's Week 12 win over the Atlanta Falcons, according [ More ]

Blake BortlesNov 25 01:33p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles went 15-for-27 for just 146 yards and an interception in the team's Week 12 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and he hasn't tossed a [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group