According to NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman
, the Redskins are right to fear Julio Jones
and the Falcons offense this weekend.
Jones has totaled 478 receiving yards and four touchdowns so far en route to NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors in September, has helped keep the Falcons undefeated through four games and has landed the top spot on Chris Wesseling's divisive top 10 wide receiver rankings.
Jones has been playing like a man not bound by the laws of physics or the constructs of reality. Maybe that's because he was not made for this world.
When asked to describe Jones, Redskins corner Will Blackmon answered, "If you create a player on Madden, that's him."
But it goes beyond the speed and 6-3, 220-pound framed.
As ESPN.com's John Keim noted, the trouble with Jones is knowing exactly where he's going to be and what he'll then do. Just look at what the Falcons did with their top receiver against Dallas two weeks ago. One play he’s motioning to a stacked position and two plays later he’s outside the numbers.
Later, he’s back inside, tight to the line of scrimmage running a deep cross for 22 yards. Three plays later he runs a skinny post from a similar spot on the other side of the line for a 45-yard touchdown.
So, in addition to being big and fast, Jones is versatile.
“They move him all over the field and it’s hard to figure out where he’s going to be,” Redskins corner Bashaud Breeland said.
The combination of Jones, quarterback Matt Ryan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has resulted in big numbers. It’ll be tough for Jones to maintain a 9.5-catches-per-game pace. And it’s not as if he hadn’t been productive in past years: He caught 104 passes for 1,593 yards last season.
But the Falcons are moving him around more, preventing defenses from always getting a handle on him. That, plus Shanahan’s misdirection offense, often leaves Jones more open than defenses would want.
“It speaks to the volume of how bright Julio is,” head coach Dan Quinn said. “He’s got a terrific football mind.”
“He’s a great player wherever he is,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “When you line up a great player at one spot, sometimes you can cloud to him, you can do some things to him. When you move him around -- you put him in the slot, you put him over here; you put him in motion -- that’s a little bit more difficult. There’s a lot more communication that has to take place.
“He’s like a great basketball player -- he’s going to get his touches. He’s going to get his points. We’ve just got to make sure he doesn’t hurt us with the over-the-top big plays and make sure when he does get the ball we have a group effort to get him down."
A cornerback must prepare well before facing such a receiver. It’s not just that he lines up in different areas, it’s that he’ll then run different routes. So a corner must know what routes he’ll run from what alignment.
“That’s why we make six-to-seven figures,” Blackmon said. “We have to know all that stuff.”
As Keim suggested, the danger there is paying too much attention to Jones, leaving others free. He'll run pick routes to free others up; it's how former Redskins receiver Leonard Hankerson caught a touchdown pass last week against. Houston. Other times, Jones will line up in the backfield, with running back Devonta Freeman aligned at fullback.
But you must pay close attention to Jones; it’s tough to jam him, but corners have tried to play up on him. And it'll be difficult to slow Jones if corner Chris Culliver can't play because of a bad knee. Regardless, the Falcons moving him around makes Jones even better -- and tougher to stop.
“He’s a big, physical receiver and has great speed,” Redskins slot corner Kyshoen Jarrett said. “Whether he’s in the slot or outside. He gives any corner a great challenge.”
And he gives any fantasy owner a great edge.
Remember, Jones is officially listed as questionable for today's game with toe and hamstring issues. I'll be following up through the inactive announcement, but expect Jones to play as usual.