In only his fifth NFL season, Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones has grown into one of the best pass-catchers in the game. After compiling 278 receptions for 4,330 yards and 26 touchdowns in his short career, the 2011 No. 6 overall selection has been even better this year in just three games.
Jones’ previous career-highs in catches (104) and yards (1,593) in 2014 and touchdowns (10) in 2012 seem poised to be shattered as long as he’s able to stay healthy for the entire season.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has already targeted Jones 46 times this year, just under one-third the amount of his career-high 163 last season. Jones has 34 receptions, 440 yards and four touchdowns as he’s averaging a ridiculous 11.3 yards per catch and 146.7 receiving yards per game.
His passing yard totals from a year ago ranks 21st all-time a single-season in league history. Jones is on pace to break Detroit’s receiver Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,965 yards set back in 2012. Jones already broke league records for the most catches in the first three games of the season (34) and is the first ever player to reel in 135 yards or more in the first three games of the season.
The 26-year-old Georgia product is a dynamic playmaker is now fully healthy after missing 15 games due to leg and foot injuries in the past. He’s recorded 12 or more receptions over his last two games—both on the road—as he’s scored two touchdowns in Week 1 and Week 3.
At 3-0, the Falcons welcome Houston to town on Sunday, and with Ryan and Atlanta’s offense looking better than ever under first-year offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, you have to like Jones’ chances to continue his domination.
Despite the fact that the Texans rank No. 12 overall in pass defense this season, allowing a measly 234 yards per game, it will be hard to keep Jones in check.
Even with Roddy White’s skills diminishing and the Falcons offense lacking many playmakers outside of Jones and riser Leonard Hankerson, Atlanta is still a team to watch out for.
Jones is a weapon that should be used early and often in games. Shanahan has tinkered the way the Falcons use him to their advantage, and it’s showing. He has Ryan tossing him quick outs to give him the power to get up the field. That opens up the deep ball, and Jones can make big plays in a hurry we’ve seen that over the years.
In his lone game against the Texans back in 2011, Jones had four receptions for 68 yards on 11 targets. Expect Jones to have a much better day this time around as Atlanta has all the momentum on their side at home as they are perfect on the season and look to stay that way with Carolina tied atop the NFC South.
Jones is using his talent to its finest power and Ryan and the Falcons offense have to be loving it. However, Jones thinks he could be better thus far this season.
“No, not at all,” Jones said, via the Houston Chronicle. “I feel like I can do better. You can never play a perfect game. There’s some calls I haven’t executed properly in the first three games. I have to execute better.”
It’s pretty amazing to hear Jones be so hard on himself considering he’s on pace for single-season records in receptions (181) and yards (2,346) as well as a No. 3 finish in touchdowns (21) behind only Jerry Rice and Randy Moss.
Jones is currently the same age, 26, as Calvin Johnson was when he broke the single-season receiving record in 2012. It’s scary to think now that Jones is even better than Johnson because at the time Johnson was the ideal receiver to have on your team, and a player defenses were very intimidated by.
The Falcons need to keep finding ways to get Jones the ball as much as possible. If they do, the sky is the limit for this offense, and we know they are the bloodline of this team.