After a 13-3 regular season in 2010, the Atlanta Falcons were demoralized in a 48-21 playoff loss to the Packers. It was clear the Falcons needed more weapons on offense.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff moved up 21 spots in the 2011 draft to select Julio Jones, in a bold but dangerous, yet arguably one of the greatest draft picks in franchise history.
Roddy White had an exceptional season in 2010, leading the league in receptions. But with that success came more attention from opposing defensive coordinators. Teams started double teaming White, which effectively took Matt Ryan‘s favorite target away.
The defensive game plan was simple; Take away White and make the rest of the receiving corps step up.
Although Harry Douglas, Michael Jenkins and Eric Weems were a respectable group, none of them are Jones. In fact, the Falcons have never had a player with the combination of size, speed and athleticism that Jones possesses.
Drafting Julio Jones puts defenses in a bind. Defensive coordinators have to pick their poison by either double teaming White or Jones. It’s tough, and dangerous, to leave either to one-on-one coverage.
This is the conundrum Dimitroff wanted to create for opponents. Leaving either of them in single coverage gives Ryan the chance to dissect defenses in a variety of ways, and that plays perfectly into the Falcons’ hands.
With Jones on the field, defenses have to deal with two Pro Bowl receiving options in White and Tony Gonzalez and they have to figure out how to cover Jones.
Not only does Jones bring a deep threat but he also will help in the screen game, a new wrinkle in the offensive repertoire that new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter brought from Jacksonville. Jones is dangerous enough as it is, but imagine what it will look like to see him catching a short screen pass and running down the field with a convoy of offensive linemen blocking for him.
Its a scary thought.
Even though he missed three games last season Jones finished the season with 54 catches for 959 yards and eight touchdowns. White finished last season with 100 catches for 1,296 yards. With Jones getting a full off season’s worth of training and practices, White is expecting big things from the second year receiver.
“He needed to go through OTAs, and now that we’re into training camp, he’s real comfortable. He’s going to be really good this year. I mean really, really special” said White.
These two have the potential to be one of, if not the best receiver tandem in the league this season. White will do what he always does. He’ll produce, be a leader and a strong veteran presence to help lead Jones. If both remain healthy, both could turn in Pro Bowl type performances.
“We can be great,” Jones said. “The sky’s the limit. We’ve just got to keep coming out here every day and getting better.”