FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick will compete against one another for the first time since Kirkpatrick has been a starter in the NFL.
Jones and Kirkpatrick won a national championship together at Alabama in 2009. Jones went on to declare for the NFL Draft after the 2010 season and Kirkpatrick followed the next year. Both were first-round picks, Jones the No. 6 overall pick in 2011 and Kirkpatrick the No. 17 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
The Bengals and Falcons don't play often – the two clubs have squared off 13 times since they first met on Nov. 7, 1971, a 9-6 Falcons win. And since Jones and Kirkpatrick have been in the league, the two teams have played one time – in 2014 when Kirkpatrick only played 15 snaps on special teams.
But if there's one thing we've come to learn about Jones it's that no matter who he lines up against, he's going to do his job.
"It doesn't matter about relationships when it comes to football," Jones said. "I have a job to do, he has a job to do. We're going to go out there and compete. He's a dog, he went to Alabama. When we line up, it's time to go."
Kirkpatrick on the other hand said this game is "personal." He knows the challenge that lies ahead of him not just with Jones,
"A great challenge," Kirkpatrick said via ESPN.com. "Julio is still my guy win, lose or draw. This week I feel like it's going to be a little extra something."
Kirkpatrick also knows Jones isn't the only former Alabama receiver he will have to account for on Sunday now with rookie Calvin Ridley in the lineup for the Falcons. Ridley shined in the Falcons' 43-37 loss to the Saints in Week 3 with seven catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
It's undetermined if Kirkpatrick of William Jackson III will shadow Jones on Sunday, but Kirkpatrick certainly has the respect of Falcons coach Dan Quinn.
"[He's] one we have a lot of respect for," Quinn said of Kirkpatrick. "He can really play at the line of scrimmage. He has the speed to stay with people, you can say his game is complete in what they do. Sometimes when a player is matching, OK is he normally inside or outside. Those are the things we do from a coaching standpoint to say okay, let's put guys in different spaces and put them outside or inside, left, right. But he's an excellent player."