Expect Julio Jones (only a ‘5 or 6′ last year?) to take over

Julio Jones (between Roddy White and Harry Douglas) could be center of Falcons offense this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Julio Jones (center) may make more impact plays than Roddy White (left). (Curtis Compton/AJC)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Julio Jones is different. He is not different just because of his rare combination of size, strength and speed for a wide receiver, or because he possesses the ability to be one of the premier players in the NFL. We’ve seen guys with talent.

Jones is quiet. He is humble. He doesn’t spend every waking minute tripping over his ego, his tongue or his Tweets.

Do you know how rare that is for an NFL wide receiver? The position breeds divas. Keyshawn Johnson spent a career screaming, “Throw me the damn ball!” but he might as well have been a spokesman for the position.

Jones doesn’t set goals. He doesn’t write numbers down on a piece of paper and put them in the top desk drawer to check after the season. He doesn’t even think, “I want to be the greatest wide receiver in NFL history.”

His career objectives are simpler. More common-man-like.

“When it’s over,” he said, “I just want to look back and think, ‘I left everything on the field.’”

He was sitting in a quiet office following Falcons practice Tuesday. The subject was one he would prefer to avoid: himself. Unfortunately, he is too good and too important to this team to avoid.

NFL teams don’t trade a blur of draft picks, potentially mortgaging the franchise’s future, for just a pretty good player. They take that leap for difference-makers. They take that leap for guys who can change a game, alter the direction of a season and maybe help redefine a team.

We’re probably going to find out this season just how great Julio Jones is. He had a tremendous rookie season: 54 catches, 959 yards, eight touchdowns. Those are impressive numbers, even before considering this backdrop: 1) He was coming off pre-draft foot surgery that affected his offseason conditioning; 2) He was limited in work with the playbook and quarterback Matt Ryan because of the lockout; 3) He played much of the season with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss three full games and parts of others; 4) He was subjected to the play-calling of Mike Mularkey, who never utilized him in screens or designed nearly enough plays to get Jones the ball in open spaces.

Jones hates being in the spotlight, but he will be central to team's offense this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Jones hates being in the spotlight, but he will be central to his team's offense this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

When asked about his rookie season, Jones said only, “I was all right.”

On a scale of 1 to 10?

“Maybe five or six.”

And how do you feel now?

“I’m a 10. I feel 100 percent. I know the playbook. Matt and I are on the same page. I have high expectations, not only for myself but for the organization.”

If the Falcons finally take that next step this season, it will be because of Jones. If he doesn’t finish with more receptions than Roddy White, there’s an excellent chance he’ll at least make more impact plays, steal more moments, win more games.

No defender can stay with him in practice. When one is close, Jones goes up to make the catch anyway. He burned Asante Samuel on the second play of an 11-on-11 drill Tuesday. He torched poor 5-foot-9 Robert McClain on another play in the end zone, prompting one fan to yell, “You need somebody taller!”

But you won’t hear bragging from Jones.

“I’m not a selfish person,” he said. “Growing up, that’s just how my mom raised me. I don’t take anything for granted. You don’t know the people around you, so you can’t disrespect them or mistreat them. They might be the same people you meet later in life.”

When asked about potentially having a starring role in the offense, Jones talks about his chemistry with Ryan and gaining the confidence of coaches. It’s always about the bigger picture. “I really don’t care about the spotlight,” he said. “That’s why going to a place like Alabama was good for me. When you put your pads on, you wouldn’t know who’s a walk-on and who’s a scholarship player.”

A recruiting story: Jones was one of the nation’s most sought-after players in 2008. Logic suggested the kid from Foley, Ala., was going to pick the school in Tuscaloosa. But it wasn’t until he met coach Nick Saban that he was sure.

“Growing up, I really didn’t watch a lot of college football,” Jones said. “But one of the reasons I liked Alabama was when I went to visit coach Saban, he said, ‘Well you know, we want you here. But we’re going to win with you or without you.’ I was like, that’s me. I just want to win. I don’t like stuff just given to me.”

If only he were the prototype.

By Jeff Schultz

161 comments Add your comment

MattyB

August 7th, 2012
9:41 pm

Julio and Roddy……….look out!

pat

August 7th, 2012
9:42 pm

Glad he’s a Falcon.

Brian

August 7th, 2012
9:44 pm

Jeff, I remember watching the Dawgs vs Alabama wanting some to lay a hit on him and stop him. I even yelled at the TV for someone to stop him. But now he is on our side and I am glad to have him here. Class Act he is as I saw on that day.

Gamer

August 7th, 2012
9:46 pm

IF THIS IS REALLY THE CHARACTER OF THE PHENOMENAL, SENSATIONAL AND PRODIGIOUS WIDEOUT JULIO JONES THEN THE NFL IS IN FOR A THRILL….

WITH THIS TYPE OF HARDWORKING ATTENTION TO DETAILS MINDSET AND TALENT MESHING WITHIN A RECEIVER, YEA LOOKOUT JERRY RICE RECORDS AND HIGHLIGHT REELS…

Sly Boarders

August 7th, 2012
9:46 pm

If football doesn’t get going soon (that Phoenix game doesn’t count), I’m going to track down Mike Hampton and punch his baby in the face.

Mike Hampton has a baby, doesn’t he?

King of mean

August 7th, 2012
9:46 pm

Roll birds Roll

felix the cat

August 7th, 2012
9:50 pm

Julio!! Look out NFL… He is on top of his game! Go Falcons!

bgtodd01

August 7th, 2012
9:58 pm

Now he is an excellent example for the kids out there….plus, even better, he’s a FALCON!!!

Bird

August 7th, 2012
9:58 pm

I don’t think we have to question if this is really his character. The proof is in the pudding.

David C

August 7th, 2012
10:00 pm

Falcon Fans are going to find out what Bama Fan have been talking about for years.This guy is a game changer. One guy can’t cover Julio.

Big Crimson 75

August 7th, 2012
10:03 pm

Sit back & enjoy Falcon Fans.
You saw only the tip of the iceberg last year.
The guy is a winner, a team first player & will be an elite WR for many years.
Do It Julio!!!!

old qb

August 7th, 2012
10:10 pm

To really let Jones and White fly we need a slot receiver that can open over the middle, take a hit, and then make yards after the catch. It’s time for Harry Douglas to step up. With Julio and Roddy on the outside defenses can’t double him. If Harry can beat linebackers and safeties the big guys will flourish. He’s shown potential, but he’s always been hurt.
In the red zone it will probably be Kerry Meier in the slot. Is he completely healthy? We need big bodies down in the red zone to both go up for the ball and lay a lick blocking. Douglas is too small for that role.

rollo lawson

August 7th, 2012
10:12 pm

We have two bonafide stud, #1 receivers on the outside. It’s all on Matt Ryan and the offensive line now. Hopefully Julio can steal some of Tony G. ’s five yard catches. Can’t blame Mularkey anymore, even though he was a huge part of the problem.

wyndero

August 7th, 2012
10:15 pm

Must be a slow news day, what is the point of saying he’s gonna win more games and steal moments from Roddy? Only losers think like that. Did you notice how not one falcon fan fell for that crap? Our team is focused on winning, and you best be leave that MR. White is a leader in that department. Do us a favor and find something else to get people falsely riled up about.

steven a smith

August 7th, 2012
10:20 pm

Matt Ryan must get better. The Quarterback is the leader of your football team. He has to play better in adverse conditions. If the Atlanta Falcons do not win a playoff game this year, significant changes must and will be made.

Bama Fan#2

August 7th, 2012
10:24 pm

Saw in person Julio’s first game in college against Clemson
in the Dome!! Special player in college and still wear his 8
jesey with pride. The Falcons are lucky to have him!! RTR

needing attention

August 7th, 2012
10:29 pm

@wyndero,

Do you honestly believe that…what are you smoking? I do believe that GM Dimitroff and coach Smitty know a gem when they see it, but then again, you are entitled to your opinion.

Rick

August 7th, 2012
10:33 pm

I knew jt was coming to this! Roddy will be a top 10 receiver this year and in the top 3 to 5 next year! No looking back, we will be RISING UP!

Rick

August 7th, 2012
10:34 pm

Roddy is already a top 10 my intentions were to say Julio! Apply all else I said for Julio!

skyrock

August 7th, 2012
10:42 pm

I’m so excited for this season to kick off!!! Go Julio!!!! Actions always speak louder than words!! I do feel this team going to the Big game and finally getting the monkey off the back!!!!! My LA Kings won the Cup and I feel the same as I did about them. Just a magical year!!!! GO FALCONS!!!! See you when you come to beat up on the Chargers!! LA Fan

steven a smith

August 7th, 2012
11:02 pm

This team as currently constructed will not make the playoffs. Tampa, Carolina, and N. Orleans, will have more wins…And i am an Atlana fan. Have been since Bob Lee and Steve Bartkowski, Bubba Bean and Haskell Stanback.

The Grinch

August 7th, 2012
11:11 pm

I have no doubt Julio’s going to be special. I’d just feel a little better if we had someone protecting our QB so he can throw to him.

tree rollins

August 7th, 2012
11:17 pm

After Ryan gets hurt I want him to say “Me and Redman are on the same page”. Otherwise the season’s over.

tree rollins

August 7th, 2012
11:20 pm

I want a bounty set for whichever Falcons receiver drops the fewest balls!

Adam

August 7th, 2012
11:21 pm

When Julio left Alabama for the NFL, it felt like my girlfriend had just dumped me. I love this guy and Falcon fans (which I am now) will as well in the coming years.

ViningDawg

August 7th, 2012
11:24 pm

King of mean, you said it… Roll Birds Roll…

whiskey breath

August 7th, 2012
11:28 pm

Julio is our proof of great character guys at Bama.
Has Ga ever had one with Richt?

Bird

August 7th, 2012
11:51 pm

There are good character guys at every program, and there are some knuckleheads at every program.

T-Bone

August 8th, 2012
12:20 am

He’s humble because he sucked last year. If he performs that’ll be great but so far he hasn’t been close to what we gave up for him. If he was a white QB this city would have hung him like MV did his dogs.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

August 8th, 2012
12:29 am

Jeff

I’m still waiting for the CHOKE must go blogs like you did with Vick.

Come on buddy you can do it :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

August 8th, 2012
12:31 am

Jeremy Maclin & Desean Jackson…………..Didn’t cost them a whole draft to acquire……ha ha :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

August 8th, 2012
12:33 am

Do you know for the price of getting Julio Jones you could have gotten Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin & Lesean McCoy with some change to spare… :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

August 8th, 2012
12:41 am

This is how you draft:

Desean Jackson (Starting Receiver) Longest td 91, 88, 61 (2010)

Jeremy Maclin (Starting Receiver) Longest td 65, 55, 50

Jason Avant (Starting Slot Receiver)

Brent Celek (Starting Tight End)

Lesean McCoy (Starting Running Back) 20 total tds (2011)

All of these players were straight up draft picks. Amazing drafting skills :)

What a joke......

August 8th, 2012
12:43 am

Desean Jackson?? Really?… The same dude who Dunta laid out and was crawling around like a lil baby??… Damn didn’t the Falcons knock the snot out of Vick last year? He had to leave the game didn’t he?.. Best moment last year was watching Vick leave the field with a totured look in his eye and fear in his face… What a coward..

What a joke......

August 8th, 2012
12:44 am

no one cares….

Mo

August 8th, 2012
1:03 am

So everyone missed the slam against Mike Mularkey? I’m guessing that all the throws to Julio was Matt’s doing. MM had no clue what to do with this offense. I’m not saying that Koetter is better, but from listening to the players, they’ve bought into his system. aint’s fans: go “fowl” up your own teams blogs! GO FALCONS!

capstoneman

August 8th, 2012
1:36 am

Julio is a worker…plain and simple..he is the best blocker receiver I have ever seen…and a great receicer…he handles DB’s…Falcon’s are lucky….the guy is sincere and is a team player! RTR and go Julio/Falcons!!!

Blake

August 8th, 2012
1:58 am

@Matt “CHOKE” Ryan….WTF or you doing on a Falcons Blog?….It must really bother you If your calling Ryan, Matt “CHOKE” Ryan….are you a Falcons fan? If Vick bothered me I would go on an Eagles blog and say so but I don’t care…so why don’t you go choke on a cheese steak hoss and take your 5 year old mentality with you….

Blake

August 8th, 2012
2:06 am

@Matt “CHOKE” Ryan….BTW…Julio Jones Is far superior than any receiver on your team….do I sense a streak of jealously screaming from up northward? I hate It for ya pal….deal with It yankee doodle…!

Mora less Petrino

August 8th, 2012
2:43 am

The Birds are lucky to have JJ! Looking forward to seeing Julio and Co. with the new OC in place.

Ted M

August 8th, 2012
3:07 am

4) He was subjected to the play-calling of Mike Mularkey, who never utilized him in screens or designed nearly enough plays to get Jones the ball in open spaces.

Wow, everyone talks about Mike Mularkey like he was the biggest doofus offensive coordinator that ever lived. (I think he stunk too) What does that say about Mike Smith?

Mike Smith loved Mike Mularkey and always sang his praises. Mike Smith did not fire Mike Mularkey. How can Mike Smith be a great head coach if he thinks a doofus is a great OC?

DayOneFan

August 8th, 2012
3:38 am

@Blake…don’t fall for choke’s BS. He is only bashing MR2 because of race. He is not a Falcon fan. In his racist mind he actually believes the Birds “turned their back on vick”. I don’t know about anyone else her but, if I were arrested and lied to my boss about it, I would be fired immediately. Hell, AB waited until vick was convicted and jailed before cutting ties. What was he supposed to do…hold a roster spot for 2-years. Go away choke…bigot.

DayOneFan

August 8th, 2012
3:41 am

My last post was the truth and was deleted. I love you Jeff but, come on. You, yourself know what I said is true.

dean

August 8th, 2012
5:07 am

Julio’s momma did a great job. Good luck Julio. (i forgive you for traumatizing us dawgs that blacked out night in Athens)

Carpetbagger

August 8th, 2012
6:02 am

Jones will pull a “hammy” in week 3… he’ll be ineffective for four-five more weeks. Wait and see. He’ll turn out to be another Aundray Brucer but costing a lot more. Wait and see! Too many draft eggs in Jone’s basket. Let’s be like Green Bay/New Orleans? Yeah right! Copying is not the way to go… wait and see!

RunninWithTheDawgs

August 8th, 2012
6:26 am

The Falcons will never win a Super Bowl with Matt Ryan running the team.

Wilson Pickett

August 8th, 2012
7:09 am

Hope The Falcons and Julio have a great year.

Nick Saban…We will winl with your or without you
Mark Richt…..missing man formations and happy birthday singing…

Who-he-oh?

August 8th, 2012
7:19 am

That will be his name by EOY….FAILCANTS are a joke….Saints own you….enough said….back to your dreams and wishes for a SB victory that will never surface…if you want, I can send you a copy of the Saints SB victory if that will make you feel better….lmao….

AlanFalcon

August 8th, 2012
7:20 am

Julio plus Matt (great combination), add Roddy’s ego to the mix along with Tonys determination and it spells sucess.

Larry

August 8th, 2012
7:20 am

It won’t matter. Without the linemen (on both sides of the ball) we should have been acquiring instead of meaningless flash and dazzle, the Falcons won’t have time to get it to Jones. The defense will stop no one with any kind of run offense. The Falcons will lose a lot of games this year – and next. Successful teams have strenghth up front on offense and defense. The Falcons have a lot of pretty faces in the backfield; their plan will backfire.