Jones’ num­bers down, but he’s not sweat­ing it

The Standard Journal - - NATIONAL SPORTS - By Paul New­berry

FLOW­ERY BRANCH — Julio Jones is still mak­ing some dy­namic plays for the At­lanta Fal­cons.

There was his touch­down catch at New Eng­land, where he went up over Mal­colm But­ler in the corner of the end zone and snatched the ball away, as if to say, “Get that weak stuff outta here!”

Not to men­tion a 53yard grab against the New York Jets, when Jones breath­tak­ingly ac­cel­er­ated down the mid­dle of the field, beat­ing two de­fend­ers with a speed of 21.13 mph (faster than any other player in Week 8, ac­cord­ing to NFL’s Next Gen Stats ) and hauled in the pass from Matt Ryan.

Even so, t here’s no doubt that Jones’ num­bers are down rather sig­nif­i­cantly in sev­eral key ar­eas — most notably, touch­downs and yards per game — which has sparked a run­ning stream of ques­tions about his role in the At­lanta of­fense.

Jones doesn’t sound the least bit con­cerned.

“I don’t need val­i­da­tion from any­body,” he said Thurs­day, stand­ing at his locker be­fore prac­tice, “or num­bers to tell me through­out the year what type of player I am.”

Jones is not hav­ing a poor sea­son by any stretch.

Pro­jected over a full sea­son, he’d fin­ish with 85 re­cep­tions for 1,234 yards. But he’s got only one TD — that catch against the Pa­tri­ots in the clos­ing min­utes of an ugly 23-7 loss — and his av­er­age of 77.1 yards per game would be his low­est since 2012, af­ter four straight sea­sons of pro­duc­ing more than 100 yards each time out.

Frankly, it’s more than a lit­tle odd to look at the NFL’s re­ceiv­ing stats and see Jones only fifth in yards per game — he led the league in that cat­e­gory the past two sea­sons — and way down in 20th with just 37 re­cep­tions. A year ago, Jones had 83 re­cep­tions for 1,409 yards and six touch­downs de­spite miss­ing two games with an in­jury.

In 2015, play­ing all 16 games, he turned in one of the great­est re­ceiv­ing sea­sons in NFL his­tory: 136 catches, 1,871 yards and eight TDs.

Jones is not one of those diva re­ceivers who con­stantly de­mands the ball. He has said over and over again — and he did again Thurs­day — that the only stat of con­cern to him is the won-loss record.

“If we dial the play up, I’m go­ing to go out there and try to make the best of it,” Jones said. “I’m very ex­plo­sive down the field, but peo­ple can’t see what we see on the field.

“A lot of peo­ple try to take me away early on. You can’t see it. There might be one guy, but the safety’s cheat­ing over and things like that.”

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