What will the Atlanta Falcons’ offense look like without Julio Jones?


ATLANTA — Matt Ryan didn’t even need to give it some thought final month, again when the Atlanta Falcons buying and selling Julio Jones was extra of a chance than actuality.

The quarterback didn’t need to entertain what the Falcons would appear like with out probably the greatest receivers in franchise historical past. Ryan did not need to take into account his profession with out the participant whom he’d focused for essentially the most yards and touchdowns.

“He’s most likely impacted my profession extra considerably than some other participant,” Ryan mentioned in Might. “And I’m actually lucky to be round him for so long as I’ve.”

That influence might be observed nearly instantly after Jones was traded to Tennessee on Sunday for draft picks. It’s nonetheless going to be robust to think about what Atlanta will appear like with Jones enjoying three hours north.

That mentioned, the Falcons did have a glimpse final season, though in a very totally different offense underneath coordinator Dirk Koetter as an alternative of now underneath first-year Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith.

In 2020, Ryan had extra passing performs with out Jones than with him. With Jones, Ryan had a QBR of 83, a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4.3 and threw for 8.0 yards per try. With out him, Ryan’s QBR was 54, his touchdown-to-interception ratio was 1.6 and he threw for six.8 yards per try.

Now will that correlate to 2021? Robust to really say due to the brand new scheme and adjustments in personnel. A part of the explanation the Falcons employed Smith was his capability to innovate and get one of the best out of gamers like Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith in Tennessee. He was lauded for his capability to seek out mismatches.

Now he’ll have to try this with no future Corridor of Famer on the roster, which might have been a profit, however Atlanta nonetheless a mess of choices.

Calvin Ridley turns into the clear No. 1 receiver. He has developed into one of many high receivers within the league after having eight 100-yard video games final season, together with 4 of his ultimate 5, in a breakout 90-catch, 1,374-yard, nine-touchdown yr. 5 of these 100-yard video games got here when Jones didn’t play, so he’s proven he can deal with the eye of being a high possibility.

Russell Gage confirmed potential when he stuffed in as a starter final season, catching 72 passes for 786 yards and 4 touchdowns — three within the ultimate 5 video games.

Tight ends must be extra prevalent with a mix of rookie Kyle Pitts — a high-level expertise who might make a right away influence — and one-time first-round choose Hayden Hurst, who mentioned final week he expects for use extra on longer passes in 2021. Hurst is in a contract yr, which might present an additional oomph, and he did catch 56 passes for 571 yards and 6 touchdowns final season.

It’s these 4 pass-catchers who will probably achieve essentially the most from Jones not being a Falcon, though different gamers will profit, too. Olamide Zaccheaus and Tajae Sharpe — signed in Might — have probabilities to make an influence. Sharpe had his finest NFL season (25 catches, 329 yards, 4 touchdowns) enjoying for Smith in Tennessee. Zaccheaus has potential for large performs, as does rookie Frank Darby, who was a constant downfield risk at Arizona State.

Are any of those gamers — or any of the receivers Atlanta has past Ridley — Julio Jones? No. It’s not going they’ll be shut, however they don’t have to be partly as a result of Ridley.

Plus, the Falcons will benefit from time. Atlanta could have a compulsory minicamp this week and a complete coaching camp to work in a post-Jones world as an alternative of being compelled to play with out him on the fly.

That features the previous few months, when Ridley and Pitts have skilled collectively, getting ready for the 2021 season. This started earlier than they knew they’d be teammates, again when Jones was nonetheless a Falcon, Ridley was ready for the Falcons to choose up his fifth-year possibility and Pitts didn’t know what workforce would draft him.

Now it’ll be Ridley and Pitts as the 2 key pass-catching components of the Atlanta offense on a Falcons workforce adjusting to being with out Jones, a possible future Corridor of Famer, for the primary time in a decade.


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