ORLANDO – When the Falcons begin their offseason workout program in a few weeks, Julio Jones will be able to participate with the rest of his teammates. Jones missed the entire offseason and was limited in training camp in 2017 as he was recovering from foot surgery.
During the annual NFL head coaches breakfast at league meetings, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn talked at length about how important Jones' participation during this time will be not only for the receiver, himself, but for Atlanta's offense, as a whole.
"He gets an offseason again to train and run," Quinn said "Last year, both he and [Taylor Gabriel] had no OTAs [and] Julio had no training camp. For those guys to have the ability to run and catch and do all of the stuff we want to do, that's a big thing. Last year with Sark, we kept telling him, 'Julio's pretty good…. you'll see him soon.' For us heading into the offseason with the receivers being healthy and intact, that's a big thing."
Even for a player of Jones' caliber and experience, there's nothing more important to a players' preparation and development than on-field reps in practice.
Jones caught 88 passes for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns last season, his seventh year in the league.
Timing is everything for a quarterback and receiver, and that's where practice reps become so vitally important. Sure, Jones and Matt Ryan have plenty of hours of practice together in the books, but the ability to fine tune and work through progressions together on the grass is invaluable, and something the Falcons missed last season.
"The chemistry that takes place between receivers, running backs, coaches, everybody, it's important," Quinn said. "For instance, [Matt] and Julio have lots of hours logged together through the years. There's nothing that takes place of on-field practice. We're excited for guys like Julio who are able to work this spring and that timing for he and Matt, which they didn't do last year."