The 2018 season is now in the rearview mirror, so we can look back on it and reminisce. There is plenty of bad to look back on, but this series of articles will focus on some of the good.
The Atlanta Falcons finished the season ranked sixth in the NFL in total offense (6,226 yards) and 10th in scoring offense (25.9 points per game). This grouping of articles will highlight the five players who had the greatest impact and contribution to those very good rankings, counting them down from five to one.
Here is the second-best offensive player for the Atlanta Falcons from this past season.
2) Julio Jones
We’re getting into elite territory at this point, and no wide receiver in the game of football is more elite than Quintorris Lopez Jones.
Following some really slow news days in the middle of the offseason, everyone freaked out over Jones’ holdout to begin training camp training camp. Well, those days feel like they were a lifetime ago, as the team came to a resolution with Julio’s representatives, and then watched number 11 subsequently ball out throughout the course of the season.
Jones was Atlanta’s ultimate weapon once again, as has been the norm since he returned from that foot injury in 2014. It all started with a dynamic 10-catch, 169-yard performance on the season’s opening Thursday Night in Philadelphia; and the Alabama alum never looked back from there.
From Week 6 through Week 12, Julio would go on a rampage in the form of six straight 100-yard receiving games. That stretch helped him secure the league’s receiving yardage title, with 1677 receiving yards on a stellar 104.8 yards per game.
The touchdowns were a major question coming into this season for Jones, after he found himself scoring the quick six only three times in 2017. Things didn’t look too promising in that department near the campaign’s halfway point, as Julio was kept out of the end zone for the first seven games of the season.
The flood gates opened after his first score against the Washington Redskins in Week 9, however. Julio would end up scoring eight touchdowns in the final nine games of the season, including five scores in Atlanta’s last four games.
Jones’ 90.9 overall PFF grade was the highest among all of the team’s offensive players, and was just a touch below Grady Jarrett’s team-high 91.0 overall grade.
Julio not only did his part by putting up monster numbers, as usual, but he also made life a heck of a lot easier for Calvin Ridley on the other side of him, by drawing so much defensive attention. Ridley, as a result, would go on to rack up 821 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns — both very impressive numbers for a rookie wide receiver.
Even more than that, when you saw the camera direct its attention toward Atlanta’s sideline, and Julio in particular, you could frequently see him giving advice to and taking the young Ridley under his wing.
It’s the same way that Roddy White took a young Julio Jones under his wing so many years ago. Jones has continued to pay it forward, because that’s just the kind of person he is.
In the era of the prima donna superstar wide receiver — the ultimate “me” position in football — Julio Jones goes against the grain. He’s never attracted unnecessary and undesired attention upon himself off the field, and has been the picture of professionalism throughout his entire career.
Remember when Julio was in that aforementioned scoring drought? By the time Week 7 had come and gone, that draught had spanned 12 straight regular season games dating back to 2017, and he was asked about it following Atlanta’s Monday Night Football win over the New York Giants right before the team’s bye week. This is what he had to say:
Suzy Kolber asked Julio about the TDs and he gave a pretty great response pic.twitter.com/aLvhMx5KXJ— Ben Gretch (@YardsPerGretch) October 23, 2018
“To be great, I wanna bring other people with me.” Julio Jones is the embodiment of selflessness — he’s not caught up in his own statistics, but rather cares more about the team’s success, and is just as happy for his teammates in their success as he is for himself.
Julio Jones is the number one wide receiver in all of football. He may also be the number one teammate in all of football as well. We’re lucky to have him in Atlanta.