FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Many Falcons players have said they feel a greater level of comfort with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian as he enters his second season as the team's play-caller, and star receiver Julio Jones believes that familiarity will can pay off in 2018.
"It's because this is year two," Jones said before practice on Tuesday. "We're going to have a better relationship, we're going to know each other better because he came right in and everyone had so much hype and stress and pressure and things like that. I didn't know how he took it. But at the end of the day, yeah, we're good. Moving forward, we're going to make something special."
Jones is undoubtedly an important part of the Falcons' offense. A five-time Pro Bowler, Jones has surpassed 1,400 receiving yards in each of the last four seasons and he's the only receiver in NFL history with three games of 250-plus receiving yards.
Despite his production in the face of double- and triple-teams from opposing defenses, there are fans who point to the three touchdowns he had in 2017 and are left wanting. This offseason, the Falcons have placed a great emphasis on producing in the red zone and taking advantage of the mismatches their plethora of weapons can create.
"What we've been doing here is just working on the red zone and just trying to get better every day," Jones said. "Seeing different looks every day. Different looks, if we get pressed down there, we get zone, anything like that and everybody can make a play down there, so we've been trying to work everybody in the red zone and let those guys work their one-on-one matchups, their base matchups."
Jones has proven difficult to guard in one-on-one matchups, as evidenced by the video clip shown below, but he often isn't covered by a single man, especially not near the end zone.
When he draws multiple defenders, Jones has no problem with the Falcons looking elsewhere. In fact, he encourages it.
"For me, we are a heavy team in the red zone," Jones said. "If the matchup is there, no doubt. Go to the best guy. Whoever has the best matchup, whether it's me or (Calvin) Ridley or Mo (Mohamed Sanu) or (Justin) Hardy."
Jones, who says he's fully healthy and "taking advantage of it" in preparation for the season, did not play in the Falcons' first preseason game against the Jets due to a coach's decision. It's unclear if he will play when the Falcons face the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but it sounds like, whenever he does see the field, Jones is ready to go.