Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is getting a lot of attention this week. Let’s set aside his contract “situation” for a moment and talk about a Steve Sarkisian problem. I want to talk about how the Falcons plan to use Jones in 2018 in beyond; specifically how they plan to use him downfield.
An interesting Twitter thread caught my eye today. From an unbiased, objective standpoint, the Falcons aren’t getting a lot of production from Jones in enemy territory. Check it out:
Julio Jones (2017 regular season)— PFF ATL Falcons (@PFF_Falcons) May 22, 2018
When in Falcons’ territory:
Catches – 64 (5th)
Yards – 1,170 (1st by 129 yards)
When in opponent’s territory:
Catches – 24 (43rd)
Yards – 274 (36th)
As @PFF_Falcons later pointed out within that same thread (after a timely follow up question from @SlopingGiraffe), Julio simply doesn’t get targeted when the offense is in enemy territory.
Targets in Falcons' territory: 93 (2nd)— PFF ATL Falcons (@PFF_Falcons) May 22, 2018
Targets in opponents' territory: 50 (11th)
Circling back to the contract situation. A disturbing amount of Falcons fans genuinely take issue with Jones’ touchdown totals. Notwithstanding his nearly 1,500 receiving yards in 2017, he only found the end zone three times. That’s a problem, and it’s clearly a problem the Falcons need to diagnose and treat going forward.
I have a hard time believing this all falls on Jones’ shoulders. He’s arguably the NFL’s most dynamic offensive player. He’s an athletic freak, and if continues to produce at this pace, he’ll likely be enshrined in Canton, Ohio one day. So before anyone blames Jones for the lack of targets, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s play calling has to be scrutinized. We know the Falcons underutilized Jones on third down in 2017, relying too heavily on Mohamed Sanu in those situations. I also don’t think it’s a chemistry issue, as some have suggested. I truly, honestly believe this comes down to play calling. If Sarkisian makes targeting Jones in enemy territory a bigger priority in 2018, the results will speak for themselves.