You know about the explosive offenses of the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, and Kansas City Chiefs. They are just a few teams on the short list of offenses that average over 400 yards of offense this season. The Atlanta Falcons are also on that list.
For the Falcons, they rely on the air-attack of Matt Ryan and his merry men of receivers. Atlanta is second in the NFL in passing yards per game, putting up 319 yards per contest. As a frame of reference, that’s just 10 yards fewer than what the Cowboys average passing and rushing. The passing attack of the Falcons is legit and at the forefront of all those passing yards is five-time Pro Bowler, Julio Jones. On Sunday, Jones eclipsed 1,000 yards for the season and he’s only through nine games on the year. Julio has been putting up that type of production his entire career so it’s not surprising that he’s already reached 10,000 yards for his career. Last week against the Browns, he became the fastest receiver to reach that mark at just 104 games, breaking Calvin Johnson’s previous mark of 115 games. I guess when you make the most out of each route year-after-year, you’re going to get to 10,000 yards rather quickly.
Julio continues to deliver! pic.twitter.com/gULlPvuMTS— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 6, 2018
Jones is an amazing player and his ability to show up every season has helped Atlanta be one of the league’s top offensive teams over the last few years, including their 2016 Super Bowl season where they led the league in scoring with 34.1 points per game. Julio has been one of the most efficient wide receivers in the game over the last several years and this season is no different. One of the reasons Jones is such a big-time receiving threat is his ability to make big plays. Jones has more explosive plays (20 yards or more) than any other receiver in the league this season (image courtesy of Pro Football Focus).
The Cowboys know all too well about Julio’s explosiveness as he turned in an impressive 12 catch performance with 164 yards and two touchdowns against Dallas in 2015.
3rd and 3 for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones? How about 45 yards for a TD. #ATLvsDAL #Falcons #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/jCCFjvaX8g— Will Reeve Jr. (@WillReeveJr) September 27, 2015
How can the Cowboys prevent Julio from going off on Sunday? Let me present to you, exhibit 31, who also just so happens to go by the last name of Jones.
Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones is having himself an outstanding season. In his first full year starting at corner, Jones has found himself a home. In fact, if you google-mapped his address, it might come up with something like this.
Attention opposing offenses of the Dallas Cowboys:— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) November 14, 2018
If touchdowns are your thing, you might want to keep to the right. pic.twitter.com/GgB5hJYrnJ
Jones has been graded out as the top corner in the league at several different points of the season and currently rounds out the top five with a grade of 87.5 through the first 10 weeks of the season.
Kareem Jackson is the highest graded cornerback in the NFL through 10 weeks. pic.twitter.com/VTKC3btpKx— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 14, 2018
Byron has faced the Falcons twice so far in his career. In both instances, the Cowboys defense wasn’t been able to stop Atlanta’s offense as they put up an average of 34 points in those two games. But those games featured Byron Jones at safety. How much different is it going to be with him at cornerback?
The Cowboys typically don’t travel their corners so we don’t even know how often they’ll square off against each other, but they’ll get their chances. Byron is a physical player and he’s the perfect type of player to deal with Julio’s size. Byron should be able to press him off the line of scrimmage and contest deep throws, but he could run into problems if he has to deal with Julio in space. Because Julio is hard to bring down in the open field, look for Atlanta to get Julio the ball on shorter routes and cut him loose against the defense. Byron isn’t the best at changing directions so he could have some problems containing Julio after the catch.
Byron had some issues with DeAndre Hopkins in Week 5 as the Texans receiver hauled down nine passes for 151 yards, but he handled himself fine against Odell Beckham Jr. in Week 2, when OBJ’s stat line was only four catches for 41 yards.
I’d say that’s one win and one loss for Byron against the elite receivers in the league so far this season. How will he do against Julio?