JULIO Jones is a physical beast. One of the most imposing pass catchers in today’s game has forged out a career in Atlanta through seven seasons that has seen him rake in over 8,000 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns for the Falcons. You would think that if a team had a 6′ 3″, 220-pound beast with a 38+ inch vertical that you would target him close to opposing teams end zone any chance you get. Yet, the numbers clearly point out that Atlanta doesn’t. Why?
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LET’S get statistical for a minute. After seven weeks of the NFL action this season Jones is tied for the 37th most red zone targets with six and only two receptions. His numbers are boosted by four targets late in the Patriots game on Sunday night which included his first touchdown catch of the season. Last week he was tied for 130th in targets in the league and was 6th on his own team!
THE above catch is a perfect example of what Jones can do when he is put in a one-on-one situation, just snatching the ball out of Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler’s hands. You can’t target him every time you get inside an opponent’s 20, but still for Jones to have only been targetted twice in such situations before last week is just criminal.
THIS isn’t anything new for Jones though. Since he entered the NFL in 2011 he has 88 targets inside the red zone with 47 catches to his name and 20 touchdowns. There are 16 players that have more targets in that time span and obviously, those players’ numbers are better. However, he boasts a better catch percentage (53.4%) than seven of the players above him including the likes of A.J. Green, Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson.
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IT’S no accident that Jones scored the teams only touchdown with a red zone reception last week and more than half of his career touchdown catches have come when he is inside the red zone. Yet, the Falcons don’t go to him nearly enough. Last year Devonta Freeman (17), Mohamed Sanu (13), Tevin Coleman (12) and even Jacob Tamme (11) had more red zone target’s than Jones (10). Some of the blame for Jones’ lack of production in 2017 is being blamed on new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, but it’s clear that it runs deeper than that with Kyle Shanahan (last seasons OC) running an offense that saw Julio tied for 85th most targets in the league.
I get the whole idea of not trying to be too one dimensional, but they have a serious weapon in their receiving game that is going to waste. The numbers don’t lie either, with the closer the Falcons getting to the goal, the less they call Julio’s number. Since 2014 when Atlanta is further than 80 yards from the goal line, he is targeted on nearly a third of passes at 32.6%. When they are in the red zone though, the number is almost staggeringly halved with just 16.7% of throws coming his way.
Image from thefalconswire.usatoday.com
THE question has to be asked then, why isn’t Jones targeted more often close to opposition’s end zone? It is possible to integrate him more in scoring positions and if Atlanta can figure a way out to better utilise Jones they may just make a run at going one step further in 2017. If they can’t then the playoffs aren’t even a certainty. USE HIM!
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