Atlanta Falcons’ WR Julio Jones is Shining in the Dark
In a season that has started with bitter disappointment for the Atlanta Falcons, there have been a few shining lights. The emergence of Antone Smith as an electric and consistent threat out of the backfield, alongside Matt Ryan’s steady play with little O-Line help, has helped soften the blow somewhat during a dreadful start. Similarly, the dominant play of WR Julio Jones gives Falcons fans hope that, if we could straighten out one thing or another, there is still the talent on this team to compete at the highest level.
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After coming out of the gates with a bang in 2013, before suffering a season ending injury, the excitement surrounding the return of Jones was one of the biggest storylines in the lead up to the 2014 season. Fans were unsure if his injured foot would hinder him, but as reports emerged that Jones was at full strength, Falcons fans had something to look forward to. As I wrote in the preseason, wide receivers with similar injuries have bounced back strongly in the past, and Jones seemed primed for a big start to the year.
Credit to SB Nation for Julio Jones GIF
Through 6 games, the biggest strength of the Atlanta Falcons has been the ability to move the ball through the air. Having dropped off slightly in recent weeks, Matt Ryan began this season slinging the football with the best of them. The main beneficiary of this was, of course, Julio Jones, who is well on his way to recording some stunning numbers. Jones currently ranks third in the league for receiving yards, with 620 (103.3 per game), just 12 yards shy of first place. His 44 receptions are the most by any receiver in the NFL, and second only to Bears RB Matt Forte with 46. The Alabama product is also on track to shatter his season records in nearly every key area: receptions, yards, catches for 1st downs and plays of 20+ yards.
Jones, stunningly, has more plays of 20+ receiving yards by himself than 7 teams in the league – the Saints, Seahawks, Jets, Chiefs, Vikings, Dolphins and Raiders.
Whilst Devin Hester and Antone Smith have looked as explosive as anyone in the league this year, Julio Jones still holds the title as the big play king for Atlanta. His 13 plays of 20 or more yards leads the league, and he has scored a 40 yard TD. Jones, stunningly, has as many or more plays of 20+ receiving yards by himself than have been recorded by receivers on the Saints, Seahawks, Jets, Chiefs, Vikings, Dolphins and Raiders. He has also caught more touchdown passes than have been caught by all players on the Vikings this season. At his current pace, Jones will end the year with 117 receptions, 1653 yards, 8 touchdowns and 35 plays of 20 yards or more.
Julio Jones is a true superstar of the league, an elite receiver that may yet carry this team to an unlikely playoff berth. He is threat to gain large chunks of yardage at any time and, despite the poor start of the Falcons, should be well on track for his second Pro Bowl of his career.