BIRDLAND – Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was in Houston for Matt Schaub’s charity golf event earlier this week and he’s been in touch with wide receiver Julio Jones.
“I talked to him just via text just after the draft and just said ‘I’m excited to have you, ready to get to work whenever we end up getting to work,’ ” Ryan said to Matt Rybaltowski, the Texans reporter for CBSSports.com. ”I think it was a great move by Thomas Dimitroff and our staff to kind of move up and get him and fill up one of the spots we felt like we needed to fill. I’m excited to play with him.” (Thanks to Jason Butt, also of CBSSports.com for sending along the quotes).
Most thought the Falcons were looking to improve their defense in a draft that was expected to be rich in defensive talent. But a few days before the draft, it leaked out that they were trying to move up to snag Jones of former Georgia receiver A.J. Green.
At the Pro Bowl, Ryan fell in love with wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson. Now, he has his very own big receiver.
“I was very impressed with the aggressiveness of what we did, but also the mentality that we do need to improve and we do need to improve in different places, but we’re very close,” Ryan said. “I felt like we were last year, too. Obviously, 13-3, one seed in the NFC, that’s good, but we need to get over the top, we have to break through that glass ceiling.
“I think Julio is going to help especially offensively, but it doesn’t surprise me. Thomas has done a lot of really good things for us the past couple years especially since I’ve been here. He’s done a great job bringing in different guys through free agency, guys like Tony Gonzalez. He hasn’t been afraid to make those aggressive moves, so I was impressed when Julio came in, but it didn’t shock me.”
Ryan was impressed with Jones’ toughness. Especially, that Jones ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds with a stress fracture in his foot at the NFL scouting combine.
“How about that? That’s pretty good – that’s a lot faster than I can run it, for sure,” Ryan said. “It’s extremely impressive he did it with the hurt foot. I’m excited to finally get to work with him, see what he can do physically. I’ve heard a lot about him from John Parker Wilson, our third string [quarterback]. He played with him at Alabama, he said he’s a great guy, good teammate and really hard worker. I’m excited to get my paws on him and say ‘this is how we’re
gonna do it and see what he’s made of.’ ”
Ryan believes that Jones will fit nicely in to the passing game with White and Gonzalez and the rest of the receiving corps.
“He’s got similar attributes to what Roddy White has – he’s big, he’s physical,” Ryan said. “He’s explosive, he can make big plays happen and I think he’s really, really good in the run game, too.
“One of the big things I noticed with Julio is he blocks, he’s physical on the outside. For what we do as an offense it’s important. I think him on one side, Roddy on the other and you got a guy like Tony Gonzalez in the middle, Harry Douglas, Mike Jenkins, there’s a lot of weapons on that offense. He’s going to create some explosive plays down the field for us, too. A 4.39 with a broken foot, broken ankle, whatever it was, he’s got some speed.”
Ryan reiterated the Falcons have plans to hold their organized team activities if the lockout continues indefinitely.
“We have plans it’s not something we’ve talked a lot about with our guys,” Ryan said. “It’s not something we feel like we need to be talking about but one of the great things about playing in Atlanta is that there’s a lot of guys there during the offseason. Most of our guys live in that city and are around. We’ve communicated quite a bit and we’ve worked out quite a bit already. That’s not going to change, we’ll be ready to play whenever it is.”
Schaub, the former Falcons backup quarterback behind Michael Vick, will likely return the favor and play in Ryan’s outing on June 6 for Children’s Health Care of Atlanta.
“It’s great to be able to come and help out, but it’s also about the guys that are spearheading it,” Ryan said. “Matt Schaub is one really, really good guy. We grew up in the same area just outside Philadelphia, I was a grade school kid watching him play against my brother, rooting for my brother, rooting against Matt. I was very impressed with what he did, I love to help out anyway I can.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog