After getting eliminated by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles in last year’s NFC Playoffs, the Atlanta Falcons will be looking for redemption in 2018. The team’s front-office added former University of Alabama receiver, Calvin Ridley, in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, which gives Matt Ryan and company another talented weapon in Atlanta’s offensive arsenal. Nevertheless, if the Falcons are going to make it back to the postseason and compete for their first Lombardi Trophy this year, they’ll need another big campaign from Julio Jones.
Regardless of how many talented weapons the Falcons have on offense, it’s pretty clear Jones is the team’s most dangerous and reliable option. There are very few defensive-backs in the NFL who can cover him one-on-one and even fewer players who match up with his 6-foot-3 frame. Not to mention, the bigger the stage, the better he plays. It’s almost unfair.
Believe it or not, Jones is entering his eighth season in the National Football League. He’s easily become one of the best receivers in the league; in turn, making general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, look like a genius for his huge draft-day trade in the process. If Julio’s average of 1,579 receiving yards per year since 2014 doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will.
In regards to the upcoming NFL season, the Falcons will be, once again, counting on Jones to be their go-to receiver on the outside. Even with Calvin Ridley joining the mix and Mohamed Sanu primed to get his fair share of touches, Jones will definitely remain Atlanta’s most-targeted receiver, and rightfully so.
When this Dirty Birds offense is hitting on all cylinders, it’s usually a result of a strong running game and play-action passing to Jones.
Another big factor for Julio Jones in 2018, is in regards to Falcons offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian. There have been a ton of positive reports from the team’s training camp so far indicating Sarkisian is more comfortable with Atlanta’s offense; and in turn, ready to unleash different looks and wrinkles on defenses in the upcoming season. If those reports hold true and Sarkisian is indeed ready to take the Falcons offense to another level this year, it only means greater things are in store for Jones – which is pretty darn scary to think about.
The former Alabama superstar has never struggled to pick up insane receiving yardage totals each and every year he’s been in the league, but for whatever reason, he’s only finished with double-digit touchdowns once – back in 2012. It’s very hard for me to put that blame on Jones, especially when he can’t control when the football is thrown his way. Plus, we all saw what happened when Atlanta tried to force-feed him in the red zone in 2017 – teams knew it was coming and it obviously didn’t work.
I definitely expect Jones to surpass his 2017 total of three receiving touchdowns, but he’ll likely fall just short of the double-digit mark once again. In my opinion, the Falcons are better off running the football and looking for tight end, Austin Hooper, inside of the 20-yard-line anyway. Julio Jones will always be Atlanta’s biggest threat to a defense in the red zone, giving his teammates opportunity after opportunity to score. Needless to say, that’s far more important than Jones padding his touchdown numbers and impressing fantasy football owners.
At the end of the day, Falcons fans can expect the same competitor they’ve been watching for the last eight seasons in Atlanta. Even with all of the offseason contract drama, it appears there was never a doubt in Jones’ mind that he would miss Training Camp with his teammates. To the dedicated fans of the Saints, Panthers, and Buccaneers – it appears your hopes have been dashed.
With the Falcons adding Calvin Ridley, plus getting even more stable on the offensive line, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Julio Jones terrorizing NFL defenses once again in 2018. He may not put up numbers like Antonio Brown this year, but he’ll definitely finish among the league’s best.