Four games into a pro career, Julio Jones is already big-time

Julio Jones in his breakout fourth quarter against Tampa Bay. (AP photo)

Rampaging rookie Julio Jones in his breakout fourth quarter against Tampa Bay. (AP photo)

Flowery Branch – Dumb ol’ Thomas Dimitroff messed up. He thought he’d traded up 21 spots to pluck a No. 2 receiver. Turns out he hooked a No. 1.

Actually, the Falcons’ general manager knew full well what he was doing, but it was convenient to label the deal that left this team with Julio Jones as “21-spots-and-five-draft-picks-for-a-No.-2-wideout.” Had Jones’ ceiling been that of a No. 2 but never a No. 1, Dimitroff wouldn’t have made the trade. And now, four games later, we see the prescience therein.

Through two games and three quarters, the Falcons’ offense had been nothing special. Then the thought seemed to occur: “Hey, we moved up 21 spots to draft this guy! Why don’t we throw him the ball?” And nothing special became something very special.

Over the past five quarters, Jones has caught 16 passes for 222 yards. That’s No. 1 receiver stuff. Which isn’t to say he’s the Falcons’ No. 1 receiver. He’s not — yet. He will be soon enough.

And that, if you happened to read the fine print on the 21-spots-up-and-five-picks-gone move, was always Dimitroff’s plan. The Falcons didn’t want just any wide receiver: They wanted Julio Jones or A.J. Green, who was gone one pick ahead of Jones. They wanted a receiver who could offer immediate assistance and a down-the-road succession plan.

Roddy White, the incumbent No. 1, turns 30 next month. (We sometimes forget that White, by his admission, spent his first two NFL seasons not working hard.) White has had four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and is, by tight end Tony Gonzalez’s estimation, one of the three best wideouts — Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Houston’s Andre Johnson being the others — in the business. That said …

Good as he is, White isn’t the talent Jones is. He’s bigger — 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds to White’s 6-foot and 211 — and stronger. White is more possession receiver than downfield playmaker: His longest catch over his past 29 regular-season games is for 46 yards. Jones had a 49-yarder in his third professional game.

Said Gonzalez: “Right now I wouldn’t say [that Jones is the Falcons' No. 1 receiver] … Both of them are No. 1 receivers. They work well off each other. There’s no doubt this can be the best receiving tandem in the NFL.”

And let’s not forget the Canton-bound tight end. “I’m the one who’s going to get lost in the shuffle,” Gonzalez said, smiling. Then: “But that’s the best thing that could happen. Defenses can’t bracket me.”

White sometimes feels feel duty-bound to live up to the standard of No.-1-receiver-as-raging-diva. Last December he got into a Twitter fight with Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints; more recently he has averred that the Falcons “were a better team” that the 2010 Packers, who beat the Falcons by 27 points en route to winning the Super Bowl. (Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, overreacting, has called this “borderline disrepectful.” Guess who the Falcons play Sunday night.)

By way of contrast, Jones works hard at saying nothing. (The Falcons love him for other reasons, but also for this. Mike Smith and Matt Ryan are the world champs at saying nothing.) “I never say anything to defenders,” Jones said Wednesday, and then he admitted he hadn’t been awestruck to see Philadelphia cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the absolute best, matched against him in his second pro start.

Jones: “I really don’t know who I’m locked up with in a game.”

The young man from Alabama plays with a focused fury, and — since you asked — he was that way before the furious Nick Saban got hold of him in Tuscaloosa. “That’s just how I am,” Jones said.

He doesn’t care who’s shadowing him. He doesn’t care how many catches he has. (Jones had two that night against Philly, but one of them — a third-down conversion when the Falcons trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter — was the game’s biggest play.) He just plays.

Other big-time rookies might have made a stir about needing to be The Man overnight. Jones seems thrilled to be sharing the same locker room as the big-timer Roddy White and hasn’t grasped that he’s a big-timer, too. He hasn’t noticed that he’s in the process of transforming a team that went 13-3 last season. He thinks he’s no better than sub wideouts Harry Douglas or Eric Weems. He’s wrong.

By Mark Bradley

130 comments Add your comment

yeahsure

October 5th, 2011
3:49 pm

rainwater

October 5th, 2011
3:50 pm

yeahsure

October 5th, 2011
3:51 pm

Ryan needs to trust Roddy and Julio more. Ive seen breakdowns where either one of them looked open. With Julio getting more attention, the safety wont always go help out with Roddy. I hope we can start to take advantage of these matchups.

Nativebird

October 5th, 2011
3:53 pm

He’ll be a great one no doubt, especially when he decides to lay it all out for those rare Ryan passes that don’t fall snuggly into his perfect catching position in stride. Kid still needs to work a little, let’s not fit him for a yellow sport coat yet, shall we.

SNu Master

October 5th, 2011
3:57 pm

Julio’s a beast……First

SNu Master

October 5th, 2011
3:57 pm

Sonny Clusters

October 5th, 2011
3:59 pm

We was like that when we was playing ball. One day Coach said, “Get the ball to Clusters” and we was off! That’s not at all like Fredi saying, “Give the ball to Lowe” in a game you’ve got to win. When we heard Fredi tip his cap to Lowe’s experience we was sick at our stomach. Now, there’s been an epic collapse and we’re off subject for this blog but nobody cares. We was wondering how it would be to be in a tree stand waiting for a deer and the deer is smarter than you and is behind you untying the tree stand? If a Buck Commander falls out of a tree and there’s nobody there but another Buck Commander will there be a noise? What would that noise be after the obligatory, “Uh”? We was wondering.

Sonny Clusters

October 5th, 2011
4:07 pm

Mark, we was pleasantly surprised to click on “Submit Comment” and have it go through and not filter us. Thank you for not filtering a Clusters intent on posting a comment. As you know, Clusters are pure of thought and twice as smart and most Clusters can out filter a computer anyway. If we was out in the woods blogging on our Blackberry we would never want to be filtered out there because it would be important to have real-time communications established with you in case a random deer huntin’ Buck Commander was to shoot at us thinking we was a deer. Using all the deer parts is important when deer harvesting and not many people know that deer toes are considered lucky if you wear them on a chain around your neck. Julio is a very nice player, to keep on subject.

Mark Bradley

October 5th, 2011
4:09 pm

Kudos, yeahsure.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 5th, 2011
4:10 pm

Leave some catches for Roddy, Julio. I paid a lot in my auction draft fantasy league for Roddy this year.

Nativebird

October 5th, 2011
4:15 pm

21-spots-and-five-draft-picks-for-a-No.-2-wideout, AND no Center for the future, AND letting go your pro-bowl Guard, AND swapping out the leagues BEST punter/kicker plus a draft round for a rookie who’s looking like the league’s worst. ALL areas that are killing us now.
Let’s state the Record as it is, shall we? and not conveniently leaving out the facts that hurt. and hurt “Big-time”.

Double Zero Eight

October 5th, 2011
4:16 pm

Julio was a great pick. Let’s hope Mularkey uses
all the weapons in the arsenal. Some imaginative
play calling would be nice. Our defense is suspect.
The offense will need to score at least 38 points
for us to stand a chance against the Packers.

ernisTbass

October 5th, 2011
4:18 pm

looks like he will be a top line guy, now if he can coach defense we would be in great shape. anybody else notice that Chris Houston is doing well away from here and Dunta, who was top line is average here

Cousin Vicker

October 5th, 2011
4:19 pm

Julio, whether he is a big talent or not, will never reach his full potential with the Ryan-Mularkey regime. Matty “check-down” Ryan and Mike “run 1st, 2nd, and 3rd option, then pass” mularkey have turned the Falcons into the most boring team in the NFL

Chi Town

October 5th, 2011
4:20 pm

Respect, Saban.

RTR22

October 5th, 2011
4:22 pm

Julio is a winner. Roll Tide

PureEvil

October 5th, 2011
4:24 pm

Stupid Trade :roll:

Whaw!

October 5th, 2011
4:28 pm

I think Julio will be one of the greats. He has the right mindset and he works hard on his craft. No doubt he’ll be in the Hall one day. Ryan will too. Ryan maybe won’t win a bunch of Super Bowls but neither did Marino and he’s in the HOF. I think Ryan just has that command, and that presence and he’s a winner. Yes we’re 2-2 after 4 games but it’s no where close to being over for us. We’re a few plays away from being 3-1. You can look at it both ways. I think we’re good. And we do have a shot at beating the Pack this weekend.

[...] See more here: Four games into his NFL career, Julio Jones is already big-time … [...]

Die Hard Falcon

October 5th, 2011
4:33 pm

We absolutely need to start utilizing a 3 WR set more. Having Roddy, Julio, HD, and TG in at the same time, we will be a force. They can at best double 2 and that will leave 2 open, and all but TG, can break one at any time, we should be explosive, the weapons are there, we need the scheme and the protection for Matty Ice. I wholeheartedly supported the decision to move up and get Julio, but since we gave up our 1st rd pick next year, we can’t give them anything better than 27-32, hopefully 32. GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!

yeahsure

October 5th, 2011
4:38 pm

I wish MM would use Julio like the Eagles use Maclin. Use Julio like Detroit uses Megatron on red-zone situations. Have you seen how high Julio can jump?! No one ever bites on our reverses, let’s throw those out.

Why have weapons if MM doesn’t know how to use them. I swear, the second HD leaves the Falcons, he will have Wes Welker type production.

JA Williams

October 5th, 2011
4:43 pm

As a Bama fan I watched intently every game Julio played in for the Tide. The kid is tough, no nonsense, and plays hurt and never complains. When he ran the sub 4.4. 40 at the combine with a foot problem I knew he’d go high. He will be a great player and teammate for the Falcons for a long time to come. Guarantee Atlanta picked up a ton of new fans because they picked Julio.

Uh, Clusters...

October 5th, 2011
4:45 pm

…”not many people know that deer toes are considered lucky if you wear them on a chain around your neck” — Actually, they were not very lucky for the deer…

Alex

October 5th, 2011
4:45 pm

Roddy has absolutely CARRIED this team in the last couple years. Roddy is a pro’s pro, it has been a joy watching him dominate these past couple seasons (the best seasons in Atlanta Falcons history!!!) Now there’s Julio, and I tell you what, this kid looks every bit the pro… Mark Bradley is right… the Falcons have two number one WRs…. now let’s get into the playoffs and win the SuperBowl!!!!

Stress Management

October 5th, 2011
4:46 pm

the Packers are coming

Great Falconi

October 5th, 2011
4:52 pm

Mularkey can’t hold anything back this week. The same is true on the other side of the ball. You can’t spend week after week playing vanilla because you don’t want the opposition to have your best stuff on tape. Put it on tape and dare them to stop it. That’s how you win games.

kerryb

October 5th, 2011
4:55 pm

I see a shootout coming in this game Sunday night. We are starting to open up the passing game a little more and the Packers defense has been pretty bad in pass defense this year so far. If the defense can make some stops when it needs to we might out shoot them.

FrontRow

October 5th, 2011
4:56 pm

I’ve only seen him play one time (TV doesn’t count) and the guy is a legitimate BEAST! (ask the Eagles DBs)

Makes Roddy look like a choirboy.

Dr. Warren

October 5th, 2011
5:01 pm

I wonder if Roddy feels Julio breathing down his neck as No. 1 receiver. He’s dropping passes like it’s 2004.

P Rose

October 5th, 2011
5:08 pm

Sunday, October 2:

Joe Flacco 31 attempts, 10 completions for 163 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception. Game rating: 79.9. Season rating: 79.9.

Matt Ryan 42 attempts, 28 completions for 291 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions. Game rating: 94.4. Season rating: 84.8.

So where is that Matt “Choke” Ryan character now? I miss his constant Flacco-Ryan comparisons.

P Rose

October 5th, 2011
5:16 pm

The Falcons can beat Green Bay. Consider last year. The Falcons beat them once in the regular season. They were going toe-to-toe with them in the playoff game until Ryan’s interception before halftime. That mistake put Green Bay up by two touchdowns plus they got the ball back to start the second half. Before the Falcons got the ball back they were down three touchdowns. If the Falcons don’t turn the ball over but instead drive for a touchdown they’re tied at the half and it’s a completely different game.

Also consider the lockout. The Falcons are playing with more new players at key positions than the Packers are: Julio Jones, Ray Edwards, and a different offensive line. They didn’t get a chance to work together much before the season started, but now they’re starting to gel. The Falcons are better than they looked in the first four games, and by this weekend they should be back to 2010 form.

KQuark

October 5th, 2011
5:35 pm

Julio is a gifted athlete with great size and outstanding speed. He’s even shown better hands than I though he had. Ryan still needs to build trust in him to see if he’s the type of receiver that you can throw the ball up to like Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson and they will come down with it almost every time. Of course Roddy is very good and tough as nails but he could never get up to that level.

Frankly with the young and upcoming stars like JJ and the likes of Nicks, Bryant and AJ Green with the young QBs this is the golden age of passing in the NFL. Unlike RBs that get beat down within 7-8 years at best these receiver could play until the next decade so the NFL should be great to watch in upcoming years.

Benjamin

October 5th, 2011
5:35 pm

Now we just need our line to start blocking and our defense to, well, defend and we’ll be in good shape.

BlackHawk

October 5th, 2011
5:46 pm

Put Jones, White, Douglas and TonyG out there every play . . . don’t believe all will be covered . . . throw the darn ball and forget about Turner up the middle, maybe even use Rookie speedback more. Turner dances too much and loses yardage. If he would just hit the hole quick he wouldn’t need that dance routine–he’s just slooooowww! And Dunta?? He needs help just standing up . . . that’s a lot of wasted money . . . smallest DB is the best on the team and makes peanuts compared to “the shutdown corner DR”. Hope Baker can keep Ryan standing long enough to get rid of the ball . . . CMON MAN!!!

BravesFan79@hotmail.com

October 5th, 2011
5:48 pm

Julio will be good, along the same lines of Roddy White. But the best reciever out in the NFL today is the man out of Georgia Tech…. Calvin Johnson!! The Cowboys coach got showed up after he claimed CJ would be the 3rd best reciever on Dallas!
I said it years ago that the Falcons should of traded away whatever it took to get CJ, looks like were stuck with 1b and 1c. (which ill take) But the best in the league.. is CJ no doubt.

BlackHawk

October 5th, 2011
5:52 pm

And . . . coaches PLEASE have a back-up plan just in case your game plan is not working. I hate it when the other teams make halftime adjustments and you have nothing to counter with . . . that’s not GOOD!!! I am beginning to think like most others, maybe the team has topped out as far as the coaches’ abilities. DO we need new blood in the offensive and defensive schemers????

Roy

October 5th, 2011
6:00 pm

So we got a fairly good reciever. We have no pass rush and no draft picks to help us in the future sounds like a bad plan to me!

BravesFan79@hotmail.com

October 5th, 2011
6:04 pm

Alex: im pretty sure Terrance Mathis had better seasons than Roddy White. That 98 team was special.

Worm

October 5th, 2011
6:07 pm

His route running is fair to poor..It was pointed out during the eagles game.

Whopper Dawg

October 5th, 2011
6:39 pm

He is a quality receiver for sure. And all that is well and good. But the Falcons can’t pass block, rush the passer or defend the pass.

When a QB that the Vikings discarded to Seattle lights you up like a Christmas tree, you got real problems.

But there is help coming from next year’s draft, wait, no there isn’t and that 2012 no 1 is looking more valuable every time the Falcons play.

jerry

October 5th, 2011
7:02 pm

How ’bout let’s win a Super Bowl then talk about how great we are.

jay

October 5th, 2011
7:29 pm

Prescience? What a sublime choice of a word.

Mora less Petrino

October 5th, 2011
7:35 pm

The Birds have talent, they need to use it. Sunday is going to be embarrassing if they don’t shape up. The O’ needs to rock-n-roll so the D’ isn’t getting torched by Rodgers all night. Time of possession is the key, which means better play calling. No huddle, get it?

Fromunda Cheese Head - Go Packers!

October 5th, 2011
7:42 pm

pack gone sack wholeo. Wissconsen stuff beter then Georgea stuff. Loosers.

M A Double T

October 5th, 2011
7:47 pm

drew

October 5th, 2011
8:14 pm

i say trade White at the end of the season and get those picks lost during the julio trade back, and draft a left tackle.

Blob Horner

October 5th, 2011
8:33 pm

Uh Clusteres, ..Was the deer wearing it’s toes around it’s neck as suggested? Nope,i bet not, had to learn the hard way. Julio seems like a good country boy(not derisive),bet he knows how to wear his deer toes.

Antique Roadshow

October 5th, 2011
8:39 pm

Now all we need is a QB that can get him the ball. Matty Ryan is a “nice” story but not a Brees, Manning, or Brady.

Antique Roadshow

October 5th, 2011
8:41 pm

Jerry: How bout we win a playoff game and then we can talk about how good we are

Antique Roadshow

October 5th, 2011
8:41 pm

Julio hasn’t done CRAP and he is big time…LOL