Why Atlanta Falcons will reach the playoffs: Julio Jones


It’s the time of year for optimism. We are approaching the 2015 NFL season, and the Atlanta Falcons have plenty of reason to be excited. No, this team won’t win Super Bowl 50, but they will make the playoffs.

In this series, I will be making my case for why the Falcons will reach the postseason. In the first article, I looked at the improved defense and how this will benefit the team. Today, we look at one of the Falcons’ stars: Julio Jones.

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Jones set the world alight last season with his incredible 1,593 yards and six touchdowns from his 104 receptions. He finished third in the NFL for receiving yards, behind just Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas.

At just 26 years old, Jones is entering the peak of his career and providing he stays healthy, will once again be one of the league’s premier wideouts this season.

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He is easily the best receiver on the roster, and will be given a chance to shine in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, who will find a number of creative roles for him.

On offense, Jones has game-winning ability, and he will be the main target for Matt Ryan when the Falcons need a big play to move the chains.

So what can we expect from Jones, and what does he need to do to help the Falcons reach the playoffs?

Expect more of the same. He made 104 receptions in 2014, and we can expect the ball to be fired his way into triple digits again this season. Yes the Falcons will be expecting more from the run game, but if this is the case there will be more space for the receivers.

He will want to bump up his touchdown count from six to something closer resembling the first two seasons of his career — he caught eight touchdown passes in 2011 and ten in 2012.

If Jones is able to do so, defenses will have their hands full and will need to cater their gameplan to stoping him. Of course, this opens up other areas of the field for veteran Roddy White and rookie Justin Hardy to exploit.

If the Falcons can get the ground game going too, then defenses simply won’t be able to plug up each area. Look at the Green Bay Packers. Not only does their offense feature two of the league’s top receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, but also an elite running back in Eddie Lacy. As the Falcons learned at Lambeau Field last December, you essentially pick your poison against such a talented offense.

Atlanta will be hoping for similar success on this side of the football in the coming years, and it all starts with Jones. Jones is a difference maker and will once again be Matt Ryan’s best friend on offense.

The biggest concern with Jones is his injury history.

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A foot injury wrecked his 2013 campaign, and there were question marks heading into last season. He remained healthy in 2014 though, playing in 15 games and posting career-high numbers.

This gives reason for confidence looking ahead to 2015, but of course injuries can crop up at any time.

If Jones can stay healthy, he’s proven himself to be one of the best wide receivers in the National Football League.

For the Falcons to make the playoffs, they will need to lean on him on offense. I fully expect this to happen, and Atlanta should have no problem putting up points with the duo of Jones and quarterback Ryan.

Next: Why Falcons will make playoffs: Improved defense