With rumors dating back to just before the draft, and a trade request preceding that, Julio Jones was traded by the Atlanta Falcons to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. New Falcons head coach Arthur Smith came from Tennessee, after a nice two-year run as the Titans’ offensive coordinator.
The Falcons have mandatory minicamp this week. Naturally, Smith was asked about Jones on Tuesday. The start of his response was canned and expected.
My concern is the guys we’ve got on this roster,” he said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of different situations week to week in my experience in Tennessee. It doesn’t matter. They’re gonna roll the ball out there, we’re gonna kick off, there’s gonna be a game to play. Our objective is to go win. No different than what (we were) dealing with the COVID issue last year with Buffalo. We had four wideouts out that game. My job as a coach was to get us prepared to play and we’ll do whatever we have to do to win that game. That’s kind of how I look at it.”
Smith was asked how the trade would change his approach. The idea the Falcons’ offense will be greatly negatively impacted by Jones being gone is also out there. It’s safe to say Smith is not sweating it, as he shouldn’t be.
“I don’t worry about players I never coached,” he said.
With Jones gone, Calvin Ridley will become Atlanta’s No. 1 wide receiver. Russell Gage (72 catches on 109 targets last year) will move up in the pecking order, and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts will now step into an even more prominent role. Tight end Hayden Hurst is a good player. Mike Davis is coming in to be the Falcons’ lead back after a nice run filling in for Christian McCaffrey last year. Matt Ryan still plenty capable. So Atlanta’s offense will not fall off a cliff this year.
As Pro Football Talk reminds us, Smith may have had some extra insight since he shares an agent with Jones. Even without that, Smith knew he would never coach Jones. Jones was never part of the Falcons’ plan in 2021, whatever that might be (or should’ve been-can you say rebuild?). Publicly indicating otherwise, especially after the trade, wasn’t going to happen.
The totality of Smith’s comments about Jones was easily expected. But the line on not worrying about players he never coached carries a blunt tone that wasn’t necessarily expected to that degree.