FLOWERY BRANCH — Roddy White isn't used to being an afterthought in the Atlanta offense.
"This is not my forte," he said Wednesday, breaking into that familiar smile. "This is not something I like or desire."
Mind you, White isn't complaining.
The Falcons (1-1) are coming off an emotional win over Philadelphia, and he did catch a short pass in the back of the end zone for their first score of the game. But his final numbers — three catches, 23 yards — were definitely not in White's normal range.
He's had four straight seasons with more than 1,000 yards. He's coming off the best year for a receiver in franchise history, putting up 1,389 yards with an NFL-leading 115 receptions.
Through two games this year: 11 catches for 84 yards, his longest reception covering just 17 yards.
"You've just got to take what they give you," White insisted. "We haven't hit any deep ones yet, but they'll come. And when they come, they'll come in bunches."
Maybe they'll come on Sunday. Or maybe he'll have to wait a little longer.
The Falcons are heading to Tampa Bay for their first division game in the rugged NFC South. Last year, the Buccaneers (1-1) did a good job shutting down White, holding him to just four catches for 49 yards in their first meeting — his least-productive game of the season.
That's OK with White, as long as the results are the same. The Falcons won both matchups a year ago, with White doing a little better in the second game (seven catches, 74 yards).
"I can't complain. We're winning," White said. "As long as we keep winning, then everything will be fine, man.
Obviously, that's what we're here for. We want to win games and get back to the playoffs."
Coming into the season, there was plenty of speculation that White might have to accept a bit of a lesser role after the Falcons traded up in the draft to nab Alabama star Julio Jones.
While Atlanta is intent on taking advantage of Jones' immense talent, this isn't a case where White's numbers have dropped off because of the rookie.
Rather, the first two opponents, Chicago and Philadelphia, have doubled up on the wideouts and dropped safeties into coverage, intent of preventing the Falcons from hitting the big play.
It worked for the Bears, who blew out Atlanta 30-12 in the opener and didn't allow an offensive touchdown. But the Falcons had more success against the Eagles, even though the league's best trio of cornerbacks again clamped down on the receivers. Jones had only two catches for 29 yards.
With all the attention on White and Jones, the Falcons turned to their other offensive weapons. Namely, tight end Tony Gonzalez (seven catches, 83 yards, two TDs) and running back Michael Turner (21 carries for 114 yards, plus a 32-yard reception).
"That's the beauty of it," Gonzalez said. "In the ideal offense, you want to be a good, balanced team where the defense doesn't know who's going to get the ball."
Considering the way the offense played against the Eagles, Gonzalez said it's only natural to expect Tampa Bay will put more defenders in the box to slow the running game and slant its coverages toward the middle of the field, where the tight end was able to do so much damage.
If that happens, look for White and Jones to finally break loose.
"I'm sure Tampa will have something ready for me," Gonzalez said. "I would guess they'll want to take me out of the game, which is fine. Julio is going to have some plays, and Roddy is one of the best receivers in the league. It's just a matter of time before he explodes like he always does."