Julio Jones blasts off in his Falcons’ debut (updated)

Julio Jones seemingly blasted out of a cannon in his Falcons' preseason debut. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Julio Jones seemingly was shot from a cannon in his Falcons' debut. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(UPDATED: 11:20 p.m.)

(Folks, here’s the early print column. I figured I would just post it above the original live blog.)

We shouldn’t judge football teams based on exhibition games, any more than we should judge paintings based on penciled outlines or architecture based on a stack of wood.

The idea is just not to look bad. A new receiver doesn’t have to make seven catches. But nobody wants to see him look up too late for a pass, have the ball bounce off his head and then run straight into the oversized inflatable mascot in the end zone.

Because that sort of thing can lead a team owner to throw his luxury suite cheeseburger at his general manager.

The Falcons played their first exhibition of 2011 on Friday night against the Miami Dolphins. Curtis Lofton had probably put it best earlier when asked what he hoped to see, saying: “We want to look like we know what we’re doing.”

They did (at least the starters).

But this night was less about the Falcons in general than it was Julio Jones in particular. We only saw him for only three series. That was enough.

He caught a 21-yard pass. He caught a 22-yard pass. He was handed the ball on a reverse and took off for another 12.

This is when Falcons fans must tell themselves, “I know he played for Nick Saban, but I’m OK with that.”

Thomas Dimitroff, the general manager, traded a boatload of draft picks for Jones. He sent two first-rounders, a second and two fourths to Cleveland so the Falcons could slide up 21 spots and grab Jones.

Some screamed, “No!”

Soon, you’ll scream for other reasons.

Jones’ early fireworks Friday night suggest that his No. 11 jersey is destined to become a hot item, and he’ll become one of the team’s most popular players.

He can be that special. Quarterback Matt Ryan targeted him on the first two plays from scrimmage, but threw behind him on both occasions. But on the second possession, a third-and-3 play from the Miami 35, he stepped away from the rush and threw short to Jones underneath.

Then it was like somebody pushed the turbo button. Jones took off for a 21-yard gain, eventually setting up a 2-yard touchdown by Michael Turner.

When asked later about his first catch, Jones said: “I was going to score. I wasn’t running too fast because I was trying to set up a block, but the defender never came down. So I just got what I could.”

You weren’t running fast?

“No, I wasn’t.”

Coach Mike Smith sent Ryan and Jones back out for a third possession, and opening night became the Julio Jones Show. On a difficult second-and-12 from the Falcons’ 15, Ryan stepped back and found Jones wide open over the middle for 22 yards. On the next play, the rookie took a handoff from Ryan on a reverse and gained 12 yards. Soon it was 14-0.

Jones on the reverse: “I did OK. I could’ve done better.”

I think I like this kid.

The last time we saw the Falcons, they were rolled by the Green Bay Packers 48-21 in a home playoff game. The initial thought most had was that this team needed help on defense. But more than anything, they needed a game-changer, and Jones can be that.

As important as defense is in the NFL, the past two Super Bowl winners, New Orleans and Green Bay, both had explosive offenses. For that matter, even Pittsburgh the year before could throw it deep (before Ben Roethlisberger morphed into mutant frat boy.)

The Falcons are anxious to use this preseason to find out what this bunch can do. The addition of Jones, the return of wide receiver Harry Douglas — now two years removed from a major knee injury — and the drafting of running back Jacquizz Rodgers gives the offense the potential for pyrotechnics that we haven’t seen in some time, if ever.

Dimitroff was careful not to attach too much significance to Friday’s exhibition, saying, “The preseason to me is just a little more than a practice setting. It’s a little more live, a little more real. But you can’t get too up or down about it.”

That had to be difficult Friday. Jones had everybody up.

By Jeff Schultz

EARLIER BLOG

I know it’s only Aug. 12. I know it doesn’t count. I know we’re likely to see quite a bit of John Parker Wilson and little of Matt Ryan.

But football is back tonight. The Falcons face the Miami Dolphins at the Georgia Dome, and I’m probably looking forward to this game more than any NFL exhibition since … well, ever. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just the hangover from the lockout. Or maybe it’s the Falcons’ moves to increase their speed and explosiveness on offense that has created some intrigue going into this game.

The players I’ll be watching:

Julio Jones. The Falcons sold the farm in the draft to get him but he’s a dynamic player. I expect Ryan (and those who follow) to look in Jones’ direction a lot as the Falcons try to get him into the flow of the offense. It should be fun watching Jones on one side and Roddy White on the other.

Jacquizz Rodgers: Spoke to the rookie running back this week. I like talking to pro athletes I can look down to. Rodgers is only 5-foot-6, but he’s quick and built like a tank. The Falcons plan to utilize him as a backup to Michael Turner and Jason Snelling in the backfield and will try to get him the ball in space as a receiver.

Harry Douglas: He has been sort of the forgotten receiver in training camp. But he’s now two years removed from a knee injury and is expected to add more speed as a slot receiver.

One interesting side note: Falcons’ starters haven’t yet had a full tackle practice in training camp so this will be their first truly live action. Third stringers played in the team’s only scrimmage in Flowery Branch.

Coach Mike Smith generally has kept his starters in for only one or two series in the first preseason game, but his plans could change tonight, depending on how long (or well) those series go.

OK, that’s it for now. Ready to talk some football. I’ll be blogging live during the game, although I may have to break away to serve the print master.

Coffee time. Back soon.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

473 comments Add your comment

Brian

August 12th, 2011
6:30 pm

Falc Fan

August 12th, 2011
6:32 pm

Looking forward to it, enjoy the high octane stuff, sounds like a long night!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

August 12th, 2011
6:33 pm

Exciting times for the Falcons this year. Weapons aplenty this year and the Snelling resigning is huge. Turner will need some rest and if this team has Super Bowl asperations I dont wanna put to much trust into a Rookie, not after what Snelling showed last year.

ASN

August 12th, 2011
6:34 pm

Let’s go Falcons!

Falc Fan

August 12th, 2011
6:35 pm

I am interested in seeing the mid field pass D, understanding that we will be playing against 3rd (or lower) stringers from a less than superbowl caliber team.

Re: coffee, I saw some 3-in-1 Vietnamese coffee on sale at Hong Kong market a few days ago on JCB, good stuff, you should try it if Turkish is too wimpy for you.

Vain Jangling

August 12th, 2011
6:35 pm

Football good

5150 UOAD

August 12th, 2011
6:38 pm

This is my Weapon. This is my Gun. This one is shooting. This one is for fun.
Let’s see the Weapons for more than 1 or 2 series please.

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2011
6:39 pm

Reggie Bush and Brandon Marshall are among those who will NOT play for the Dolphins tonight.

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2011
6:40 pm

Falc Fan — what is “3-in-1 Vietnamese coffee”?

BFS

August 12th, 2011
6:43 pm

I will be curious to see the turn-out tonight. Going up against Bobby’s retirement will leave alot of empty seats, however…it is still football

Erica

August 12th, 2011
6:44 pm

Roddy and Julio look like twins.

DIrtyBirds

August 12th, 2011
6:46 pm

Lets see if the screen game returns today.

Falc Fan

August 12th, 2011
6:49 pm

Jeff- popular in Asia (China, Thailand, Vietnam from personal experience), it is a freeze dried instant concoction that includes VERY aromatic coffee with just the right mix of creamer and sweetener. Add hot water, enjoy the aroma, and enjoy. The Vietnamese 3-1n-1 tastes surprisingly like the stuff they make in coffee cafes in Vietnam, where the put the drip thingamajig on top of your cup and brew it directly into your cup. This was the first time I personally saw it here in Gwinnett.

I mentioned it because you mentioned you were off for a cupa, this is likely a late night suitable for non-alcoholic stimulation (so you can drive home safely) and I just saw it – so it was fresh on my mind.

On topic, what are your thoughts on the NCB contest, with the Owens mugging nightmare memory barely scabbed over?

Mack

August 12th, 2011
6:50 pm

I second DirtyBirds….the screen game has been aol from the falcon play book for quite sometime.

Falc Fan

August 12th, 2011
6:51 pm

Tried to post an answer to your 6:40 question, but it disappeared into that “special” place where homeless electrons go to die.

BFS

August 12th, 2011
6:59 pm

Vietnamese coffee is like “brown-brown” a mixture of cocaine and gunpowder. It will wake the dead in the morning but still tastes pretty good. You can drink it OR smoke it!

Falc Fan

August 12th, 2011
7:01 pm

BFS – coffee+Sweetener+creamer, 3-in-1, perfectly legit.

Falc Fan

August 12th, 2011
7:02 pm

Just too lazy to retype the complete explanation, and football observation, it says I can’t report but it never made it the first time, so—

BFS

August 12th, 2011
7:04 pm

If you want real rocket fuel, try Sumatra Gold coffee. It is so strong, it can’t be decaffienated. I love me some coffee!

Falcons4Eva

August 12th, 2011
7:04 pm

Jeff –
I know this is off topic, but regarding Texas A&M possible move to the SEC, if that happens (along with possibly Oklahoma) would the SEC consider a name change like the Big South Conference?

Go Falcons. Go Braves. Geaux to He!! Saints.

5150 UOAD

August 12th, 2011
7:11 pm

15 minutes until the MV7 lovers start bashing Matt Ryan. Somethings never Change no matter how much we Hope they will.
Tear them up Falcons
Go Luke COX and Kevin Cone earn a spot Jackets

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2011
7:18 pm

Falc Fan — I rescued it from spam. Sounds interesting. Will try it out one day.

Henrycountyredneck

August 12th, 2011
7:18 pm

Why do they have to do this on a friday at rush hour? I was an extra half hour getting home :(

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2011
7:19 pm

Falcons4Eva — Doubt that sincerely.

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2011
7:20 pm

Dome so far about 3/4 empty. Will be interesting to see how many folks show up.

5150 UOAD

August 12th, 2011
7:27 pm

School just started or starts Monday. i would think not many are going to be there or the Braves game. The Braves are having a special night though.

5150 UOAD

August 12th, 2011
7:35 pm

get the ball first that is a good start

5150 UOAD

August 12th, 2011
7:36 pm

Julie Jones let’s see what he can do.
Deep pass on the first play?
WEEEEEEMS good field position please.

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2011
7:38 pm

Falcons go right to line, no uddle.

5150 UOAD

August 12th, 2011
7:38 pm

OK Ryan lets see some good passes

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2011
7:38 pm

First play straight to Julio — incomplete, behind him.

5150 UOAD

August 12th, 2011
7:39 pm

Bad pass to the back outside shoulder. don’t think Jones picked it up

J.J.M.

August 12th, 2011
7:39 pm

looking horrible already…run the ball

5150 UOAD

August 12th, 2011
7:40 pm

J.J.M.

August 12th, 2011
7:40 pm

not looking good…

JSS

August 12th, 2011
7:41 pm

Thank goodness I gave up coffee drinking in my youth; but Cafe 3-in-1 was a favorite in certain segments of the Indochina communities back when we were hopscotching around Paris back in the early 80’s on the Track circuit… That was pre-blood testing of course… It is really popular in Vietnamese parts of Boston and L.A. too…

FalconFan

August 12th, 2011
7:41 pm

Enter your comments here

5150 UOAD

August 12th, 2011
7:41 pm

JJM
you knew they were going to Julie Jones just to see what he can do.

Dion

August 12th, 2011
7:41 pm

I know this is preseason, why don’t we stick to what we do best, run then throw. Ease Julio into the game not go down his throat immediately.

J.J.M.

August 12th, 2011
7:41 pm

falcons are trying to be the patriots with all this throwing when they need to run the ball…lions looking good touchdown already

FalconFan

August 12th, 2011
7:42 pm

Take a deep breath and remind yourself…it’s just a preseason game.

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2011
7:42 pm

So, pretty dreadful first possession. Ryan 0-for-3 and a false start on Sam Baker.

Stinger2

August 12th, 2011
7:43 pm

My guess is 35K max at the Dome tonight. If UGA was playing Boise State the Dome would be full.

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2011
7:44 pm

Abe pick . . .

FalconFan

August 12th, 2011
7:44 pm

There you go!

Trainwreck

August 12th, 2011
7:44 pm

Nice pick ABE!

5150 UOAD

August 12th, 2011
7:44 pm

That is what I am talking about

J.J.M.

August 12th, 2011
7:45 pm

there you run the ball like you are used too

Dion

August 12th, 2011
7:45 pm

Burner, can’t wait to see Jacquizz tonite. Heard he looks good in practice!

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2011
7:45 pm

Turner looks fresh after missing a lot of practice this week.