Julio Jones on Panthers, Brian Hill’s growth and Matt Ryan’s toughness 

Julio Jones didn’t want to talk about Atlanta’s recent win over the New Orleans Saints. His mindset is solely focused on getting a win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

This will be the first meeting between the Panthers (5-4) and Falcons (2-7) this season and Jones expects it to be a physical, close game.

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“Last week is behind us,” Jones said. “It’s on to Carolina now. All of our focus is on them. Divisional game, they know us, we know them. It’s going to be a hard-fought game. We expect that, but we’ll be ready to go.”

Carolina is in the midst of a two-game losing skid and will be looking to get back on track at home while the Falcons will be looking to go 2-0 in the NFC South.

Full confidence in Brian Hill
Jones has been on the team long enough to witness Brian Hill’s journey.

After being drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Hill was cut that season in October. He was then signed by the Cincinnati Bengals and was released after playing in six games in 2017. He was signed back to Atlanta’s practice squad where he started the 2018 season.

Hill was promoted to the active roster that season and made the most of his opportunity. The former Wyoming running back rushed for 157 yards on 20 carries.

The Falcons have suffered several injuries at the running back position and Hill went from starting the season as the Falcons’ No. 5 option to potentially starting this weekend if Devonta Freeman is unable to go.

With the way Hill ended the 2018 season and his play this year, he’s earned the respect and confidence of his teammates and coaches, including Jones.

“He’ll do a great job,” Jones said. “Level headed, hard worker. You can just see even when he was on scout team and practice squad early on, he gave great looks. Every time he got the ball, he finished to the end zone. That right there is going to build you up to be great. Your work ethic alone, a lot of guys have talent, but when you incorporate work ethic into it, people start to notice you. He’s been doing that around here. The last two games he’s scored a touchdown when he was in. The moment is not too big for him. I expect him to go out there and be who he is, that’s what we want him to do.

Impressed with Ryan’s speed, toughness

Matt Ryan, on an injured ankle, ran for two critical first downs in Atlanta’s 26-9 win over the New Orleans Saints.

After the runs, Ryan was placed on the video boards in Mercedes-Benz Superdome as one of the speed leaders of the game. Ryan was clocked at 17.0 miles per hour.

“I didn’t see it but I can’t get him to stop talking about it,” Jones said. “I mean everything in the meetings, ‘17 miles per her hour.’ That’s impressive for Matt to run that fast. He has a lot of gear on, probably has a knee brace on, heavy cleats. It’s a lot of stuff that factors into that thing. Matt did a heck of a job coming back and being able to play for us. It shows the training staff and Matt just really taking it to hear that he wants to be out there with us and play football. To be able to run that fast and play in the game, it was amazing in itself.”

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