Every NFL quarterback has a favorite receiver under pressure. With very few exceptions, that also tends to be your best receiver, and the Falcons are no exception here.
When Matt Ryan is feeling the heat, he tends to throw to Julio Jones, with a total of 50 of his 183 pressured attempts going to #11. That’s the third-highest rate in the NFL, behind Ryan Tannehill to Jarvis Landry (?) and Jameis WInston to Mike Evans, as illustrated in the chart below, which comes to us via Scott Barrett at Pro Football Focus Fantasy.
This is the Falcons’ offense working as intended. If Ryan was just hucking it up to Julio every time a defender danced into his line of sight, this percentage would be much higher, and Ryan would probably be throwing more picks. At the same time, not throwing to Julio if he’s even vaguely open when you’re under pressure seems like the kind of decision you’ll wind up regretting.
The weirdest note here? Probably that Eli Manning targets young and capable but hardly elite receiver Sterling Shepard most when he’s under pressure. I would submit that very few things Eli does make sense, though, so view it in that light.
Anyways, more proof that Julio is invaluable. You’re used to hearing this by now, but it’s comforting to know that if the right guard struggles or injury hits the line this year, Matt Ryan will have a great idea where to look.