FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons second-year wide receiver Julio Jones and quarterback Matt Ryan could develop into one of the league’s top passing combinations in 2012.
“Great receivers don’t have a problem developing,” ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said. “Great players at any position don’t struggle with their development quite as much as some of the others for obvious reasons.”
Ryan and Jones connected 13 times for 240 yards during the exhibition season.
“Hopefully we can keep him from catching about 15,” Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel quipped. “If we can hold him to 14, then we’ve got a chance.”
Jones played in 11 full games last season and finished with 54 catches for 959 yards and eight touchdowns.
With an offseason of work with position coach Terry Robiskie, Jones’ route-running appears much improved and he has a better understanding of the offense.
“They line up in a lot of formations now in college football,” Gruden said. “Heck, I used to look at college film and a certain receiver might line up in two or three different formations the whole season. Now, when I watch college football, they are in no-back sets, unbalanced sets, two-back sets, one-back sets, they are all over the place. They are quickly, I think, able to digest the complexity in terms, formations, shifts, motions, route adjustments and it allows them to showcase their stuff faster.”
Ryan passed for a franchise-record 4,177 passing yards last year and set career-highs with 29 touchdowns and a 92.2 passer rating.
“They all develop faster when they are with a great quarterback and I think when you look at Julio Jones, he’s with a young quarterback that is very skilled,” Gruden said.
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