Now that the Falcons' schedule for the upcoming season is out, it's time to zero in on the top matchups that will take place in each game. For Atlanta, several of those key matchups revolve around star wide receiver Julio Jones.
Bleacher Report's Chris Roling ranked his top cornerback - wide receiver matchups for the 2021 season and Jones earned a spot on his list, twice.
Coming in at No. 4 on his list is Jones vs. Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard. Jones and Howard don't play each other often and that's one of the main reasons why Roling has his eyes set on this particular matchup.
"Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons is must-see material," Roling said. "Even last year while hobbled by hamstring trouble, the wide receiver averaged better than 15 yards per catch and had three 100-plus-yard showings over nine appearances. Before that? Six consecutive seasons with at least 1,394 yards and a high of 1,871. Jones still has Matt Ryan under center, too, for this showdown against Xavien Howard of the Miami Dolphins. Howard led the league with 10 interceptions and finished as Pro Football Focus' No. 2 corner last season, grading at 87.3 with just 47 receptions allowed on 90 targets. While the league-elite status of both sure doesn't hurt, the fact that they don't face each other often makes this matchup so much more appealing."
The Falcons and Dolphins square off in Week 7. "Thank goodness for the rare cross-conference showdowns," Roling said.
The other matchup Roling things will be one to watch is between Jones and Tre'Davious White when Atlanta travels to Buffalo in early January to take on the Bills. This is a top-3 matchup for Roling this season and it's easy to see why.
White has been vocal about how much he respects Jones. Prior to their first matchup with one another in 2017, White talked about the opportunity to go up against Jones.
"Julio's a guy I watched when I was in high school, so to be able to go against him, it's going to be a big-time deal and something that I've waited for," White said.
White held Jones to three catches for 30 yards in their first meeting.
"Maybe Jones doesn't specifically recall that, considering he still put up 1,444 yards that season and is just focusing on getting back 100 percent," Roling said. "But he's still got a major task in front of him against White, who only allowed 454 receiving yards last season over 14 games. Since the two might not see each other much again after this rematch, it's one to mark down on the calendar."
The seven-time Pro Bowler played in nine games last year as he suffered a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined for majority of the second half of Atlanta's season. Jones caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns in the games he saw action in last year.