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Thoughts on how the Falcons can use Julio Jones and their offense more effectively

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Would you give a first round pick for Kyle Shanahan? I mean, just asking.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

This Thursday, the Falcons offense was embarrassing. They had great momentum to begin with, getting into the red zone on their very first drive, and then everything went downhill from there. So, what does the team do about it?

Yes, he caught 10 passes for 169 yards, but the Falcons only put up 12 points. There’s a way Atlanta can use Julio Jones to their advantage and put up points.

Think back to Shanny

In 2016, as we all know, Kyle Shanahan was the team’s offensive coordinator and Matt Ryan had a record breaking 38 touchdowns to 13 different receivers. How does this happen, and how can the team bring back that level of play? I’ll tell you.

Here’s the plan

The trick is to set the tone with Julio early, by allowing him to be a speed demon early on. When he has a wide open field to work with, he’s especially dangerous. Then, when you get inside the twenty, double coverage is already on Julio, possibly a safety back, simply because he had just put up a 65 yard play action pass up your throat and the defense is worried.

Take this Thursday for example. The Falcons started feeding Julio the ball in the open field and eventually in the red zone, but it got to the point where the Eagles were expecting that outcome, and it’s a lot easier to hold Julio in check in the red zone. The Falcons need to do more to use confusion to their advantage and utilize other playmakers. We need to always leave defenses guessing, in other words.

But if not Julio, who is the ball going to in the red zone? A guy like Austin Hooper. Feed a tight end the ball when all focus is on Julio, and it may be that Eric Saubert becomes a factor as well. The Falcons ALWAYS need Julio in red zone packages because not only can we use him as a receiver, but they can use him as a threat, and if receivers are spread out and teams have to account for Julio, he’s potent even if he’s not getting the ball. That’s the difference between Kyle Shanahan and Steve Sarkisian, in my eyes.

Sarkisian has the most vanilla offense I have seen in a while. Three straight bunch formations in the end zone isn’t clever and won’t cut it, both because it’s expected and it doesn’t allow receiving options room to move. The reason the Philly special eats teams up is because of its unpredictable nature. You think a zone run to the strong side on third down is unpredictable? I don’t. This isn’t college anymore. Just because somebody is fast, doesn’t mean they can torch the entire defense, because they’re not playing against an Oregon State defense, for example.

This is the NFL and for some reason, Sark has yet to realize that, especially in the red zone. The transition from college to NFL is rarely successful, which is why Nick Saban had a very short tenure in the bigs. It doesn’t work. And for this, Sark isn’t the guy in my eyes. His presence is seemingly wasting talent we have on offense because the ball is continuously forced. Now granted, Julio can do anything, and in a sense, I understand forcing the ball to Julio. But, if you can get yards but not touchdowns, it’s pointless. For this reason, Julio has never been a huge touchdown guy, because the team doesn’t need and can’t use his speed as effectively in a shorter field.

Fade plays are 50-50 and it’s not smart football in many situations. As you could tell by the end of the game on Thursday, they don’t always work, and ESPECIALLY not when the game is on the line. The Falcons need more creativity, more movement, and need to spread their weapons out more. Heck, hit Julio Jones on a deep post against a safety, who would then be single high because we would have Mo on the right side pulling the second safety with him, leaving the long-mid open. That’s all it takes to work this offense, because you have Julio Jones. You can line him up inside and watch the chaos happen.

Red zone gameplan

In the red zone, I always want to see Julio and Hooper or Saubert together. The Falcons can use swings and fakes and movement until they get the results they want if they’re using their personnel correctly. If we find a way to create a slant-rub concept for Hooper to go right and Julio to go left after a fake pitch to Teco towards the left, Julio would be running behind the defense and should realistically be wide open across the goal line, at least until they catch on.

Matt Ryan’s job is to sell the fakes and complete the passes. It’s all about creativity.

Conclusion

We need to take advantage of the best principles of a West Coast offense because we have too many passing options not to utilize them. Sark needs to turn the vanilla offense into a chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and cookies and cream offense.

Variety, Sark. Enough with the draws on third down, throw in a bootleg, channel a little classic and aggressive Shanahan. If this offense doesn’t become more fast paced and aggressive soon, we’ve got a problem, and the scrutiny will stay on Sarkisian.