In 2010, Matt Ryan entered his third season in the NFL and much of the offseason talk was about Ryan's progression and the expected third-season light bulb that would come on, indicating a comfort level had been achieved. Ryan answered the call and turned in a season that put him on the path that he's currently on toward being one of the best in the game.
Julio Jones in 2013 enters his third season and after a Pro Bowl year last season, many wonder what the ceiling is for the Falcons' electric young wide receiver.
"I definitely think he's got a chance (to be the best)," assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie said. "He can keep going, keep getting better and keep working and at the end of the day I think someone could step up and say 'boy, this guy is a good football player.' He certainly can be one of the top guys in the league."
There are those who will say Jones is already one of the top guys in the league, but Robiskie maintains that Jones is still working to get better and being the best at something is a goal you continue to chase and may only achieve briefly. One thing that will help Jones become one of the best will be his ability to take his exceptional physical skillset and combine it with a mental approach to the game that rivals some of his teammates like Roddy White and Ryan.
And with a sound mental approach comes the opportunity to influence teammates and that's what Jones has been doing during this offseason.
"Things have slowed down mentally for me," Jones said. "Just knowing what to do; being in it for a while now and knowing what to do. I'm able to coach the younger guys now. Last year I was still learning ... now I can teach the younger guys what to do and continue to work on my craft as well."
In addition to coaching up his teammates and sharing his own experiences, Jones continues to focus on himself and improving daily. Jones has been with the team during the offseason and has been front and center through every phase of the offseason from conditioning and lifting sessions to coaching sessions and now OTAs.
With his growing bank of experience in the NFL and increased time around coaches and teammates, Jones is reaching a point where his own experiences are providing him with the necessary knowledge to adjust on the fly and see things in his game on his own that he can correct without Robiskie pointing them out to him.
With Jones' comfort level also comes a fearlessness to try new things with the knowledge he's gaining on his own. Robiskie said Jones is at the point in his career where the fundamentals are muscle memory and he's now working on developing new techniques and moves to try in game to gain an edge. "He's got a bank in his brain that he can pull from," Robiskie said. "He's here every day. He sees it. He tries this. He tries that. This didn't work. That did work. When it works he stores it in the bank. If it didn't work he throws it away. I don't have to tell him on every play what to do."