Birds’ D hopes to ‘limit damage’ by Jones
Eagles defensive backs don’t want to share too many Julio Jones stories this week lest they end up watching him Sunday along with everyone else at the Linc.
Almost as amazing as the legend that the Falcons’ wide receiver already enjoys is that five players, including a receiver, were picked ahead of him in the 2011 draft. More on that select group later.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, during his tour with the Lions, had a pretty big and dominant wide receiver in Calvin Johnson.
The 6-4, 220-pound Jones is in that class and then some. Jones arrives in Philly this weekend with 51 receptions for a leagueleading 970 yards (19.0 average) and five touchdowns.
“All those big guys, even when they’re covered, they’re still open because their catching radius is so big, they’re so strong, they’re so physical and they can jump,” Schwartz said with a expression. “I think what takes Julio to a level that’s different than other NFL receivers is he can threaten deep down the field, he can catch the ball over the middle, he can take a short pass and he can run. He’s extremely strong and he’s hard to knock off his routes.
“I mean, Larry Fitzgerald has a lot of that. I think Julio Jones might even be more explosive and more dynamic than Larry Fitzgerald, who is a Hall of Fame receiver.”
No Eagles player knows Jones better than safety Malcolm Jenkins, who as a member of the Saints, opposed him twice a year. Playing good defense against Jones doesn’t mean shutting him out. Rather, it’s limiting the damage as he lines up at every position to exaggerate mismatches.
“We’re definitely going to have to survive some of those bad matchups and then continue to adjust as the game goes on because they do a good job of scheming you up if you play the same thing over and over,” Jenkins said. “He’s a special talent. You talk about his speed, his size and his ability to get in and out of breaks; it’s like nobody else in this league. And whether he’s double-covered, he’s fast enough just to run through. When he’s singlecovered he can beat manto-man. He can beat press. He’s strong when he catches the ball. He can break tackles and he can out-run DB’s.
“It’s a tough task. Nobody has really stopped him all year.”
Aggravating Jones’ skills is the talent elsewhere on the offensive side of the football. Running back Devonta Freeman is a load in the run game as well as catching the ball. Possession receiver Mohammed Sanu (Rutgers) is always open. Much like the Eagles want to do, the Falcons spread the field, making the defense defend everybody.
“It’s a little bit basketball-esque, I’d say, in trying to get some isolations,” Schwartz said. Other than that … By the way, here are the first five picks in the 2011 draft: 1. Cam Newton, 2. Von Miller, 3. Marcell Dareus, 4. A.J. Green, 5. Patrick Peterson.
It’s early but that could be a draft for the ages.
••• Jones and the Falcons not only get open, they catch the ball.
The numbers are eyeopening.
Only three teams have fewer drops than the Falcons, who have five total.
Again, that’s five total on the season.
Only four teams have more dropped passes than the Eagles, who have done the butter fingers routine a whopping 14 times. And that’s conservative.
Jordan Matthews and Darren Sproles have four drops apiece, Dorial Beckham-Green three.
••• The Eagles limited cornerback Leodis McKelvin, and his problematical hamstring, at practice Thursday.
The veteran has played through pain in the leg that he feels has made him vulnerable early in games.
That’s obviously not a great situation to be in but that’s life in the Bigs.
Guard Allen Barbre (hamstring) didn’t practice at all yet feels he’s getting close to returning to action. Hamstrings make no difference to him in run-blocking versus pass-protection.
Linebacker-special teams contributor Kamu GrugierHill (hamstring) returned to practice on a limited basis. Look for him and safety Terrence Brooks (hamstring) to be scratched, though.
Tight end Brent Celek (rib) was limited at practice. Doug Pederson is counting on him to play Sunday.
Bennie Logan was a fullgo at practice for the second straight day.
Buccaneers defenders try in vain to stop Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) from turning in a big-yardage play last week in Tampa Bay.