FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- For players on the fringe of making an NFL roster, there is no differentiating the preseason from the regular season. They don't have the luxury of getting up to speed, they have to go full speed every play.
The preseason is a bit different for a two-time All-Pro like Julio Jones. The Falcons' star receiver has yet to play in a game this preseason, but he's looked sharp in practice has said he will be ready when called upon.
Jones isn't just taking it easy on the sideline, however. He's making the most of this opportunity to help the team improve by offering up a unique perspective.
"It's not that difficult for me, because I watch it because I want to coach and help guys get better," Jones said. "I understand by them being better, we're going to be a better ball team. When I'm out there watching, it's not more like, 'ah, I want to be out there and make that play,' I want to see those guys in those positions to see if they're going to make those plays.
"(I want to) ask them what they were thinking on those plays and why they made that decision, so I can help them and let them know my point of view."
Widely regarded as one of the best receivers in the NFL, Jones is the rare 6-foot-4, 220-pound player who can run past, run through or out-maneuver a defender. He's caught 497 passes, gained 7,610 yards and scored 40 touchdowns in his six-year NFL career.
Jones is an invaluable part of Atlanta's offense, along with reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan and newly signed running back Devonta Freeman. The Falcons aren't just top-heavy on offense, however. With players like Tevin Coleman, Taylor Gabriel, Austin Hooper, Alex Mack, Ryan Schraeder, Mohamed Sanu and several others, there is talent across the board.
In fact, the starting offense hasn't missed a beat while Jones has been sidelined. In two drives this preseason, the Falcons' first-team offense has gained 112 yards on 15 plays and scored 14 points.
"We're moving the ball up and down the field," Jones said. "Nobody's stopped us yet. We just go out there – seven points, three points, whatever it is. We're just moving the ball. Everybody's in sync. We've still got little things to clean up, but, I mean, it's early. It's still preseason. We're not trying to be in midseason form right now, but we work every day to get there."
Although Jones hasn't seen the field yet, he's progressed exactly as expected in his recovery from offseason foot surgery. For now, he's enjoying the opportunity to act as a player-coach for his teammates and share his expertise.
Once he's needed, however, Jones says he will answer the bell.
"I'll be ready," Jones said. "I'm a professional. I'll be ready to go."