Birds’ D hopes to ‘limit dam­age’ by Jones

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bob Grotz bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @BobGrotz on Twit­ter

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.

JA­SON BEHNKEN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

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