The Falcons’ offense has been incredibly potent this year, and in the process of getting everyone involved, the team has been giving fewer looks to the great Julio Jones. To all outward appearances, that hasn’t mattered to Julio whatsoever.
Julio finished the year with far fewer receptions and fewer yards in 2015, when he put together one of the great wide receiver seasons in history. The team recognized that feeding the ball to Julio all game, every game was not providing them with the best possible outcomes, given the time and energy teams spend defending Julio. If you were looking for Julio to complain about that changed reality, you’re out of luck.
Take this quote from Eric Weems, who has been around this team forever and probably knows most of its veteran players as well as they know themselves:
“Oh no. Most definitely he doesn’t at all. You know, sometimes, he takes himself out of the game and says, ‘Let (WR) Aldrick (Robinson) run this play. I think Al will run this play better. Al can run this play. He’ll run it better.’ He takes himself out of the game. He’s not a selfish guy at all. He likes for the ball to be spread around so everyone can get their touches, which is smart because you don’t want to demand the ball all the time, so now you’re drawing everybody to you. You want the ball to be spread out, so that in turn you can get open yourself.”
To be clear, I’m not saying Julio Jones went to Kyle Shanahan in the offseason and said “please effectively halve my targets for the good of the offense.” I am suggesting that Julio is extremely unique among elite receivers in that he genuinely never seems to lobby for the ball or pout about his targets. Those are things that I think are generally overblown—Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown are not any less talented or effective because they’re a little more vocal—but if you’re a fan of the Right Way, Julio embodies it. If he gets one target in the Super Bowl and the Falcons win, I don’t imagine you’ll hear a peep out of him.
As the Falcons move forward without Kyle Shanahan, it’s going to be important to keep this offense multi-faceted and capable of overcoming the loss of individual players to injury. This offense functions brilliantly with Julio and very well without him, and the fact that #11 is fine with that says a lot about him.