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New wrinkles? Steve Sarkisian discusses Julio Jones' role in improving red-zone efficiency 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons know they need to be more efficient in the red zone on offense this year.

It's been an emphasis all offseason and Julio Jones' role in the scoring offense is of course a big part of that. Jones finished the 2017 season with 88 catches for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns.

One of the most popular questions or topics pertaining to the Falcons outside the walls of team facility is how Jones can get more involved in the red zone.

And while it's easy to say, well it's a simple as just giving him more targets, right?

That's actually not the case. Jones was targeted 19 times in the red zone in the 2017 which was 13th in the NFL, according to Pro Football Reference. The No. 1-targeted receiver in the red zone was Keenan Allen of the Los Angeles Chargers who was targeted 24 times.

There's a lot that goes into red-zone play-calling, especially when you have a player of Jones' caliber who rarely draws single coverage.

"He definitely creates a different vibe when he's on the field because he just demands that attention," offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said.

And while the goal is to get Julio Jones hands as much as possible, the Falcons aren't going to get into the business of forcing it. The Falcons have a multitude of weapons on offense, so if Jones is drawing the attention he is, someone else will be available to make a play.

That's where these "new wrinkles" we've heard about come into play.

"The thing is, we just have to take what people give us," Jones said. "We're not going to force anything down there, we just [have] a lot of new wrinkles in the red zone."

There's a different set of challenges that occur when calling plays in the red zone as opposed to anywhere else on the field.


"The biggest thing that happens in the red zone is that the field shrinks," Sarkisian said. "So defenses don't have to defend the deep ball down the field. So execution is paramount. Everybody being exactly on the same page is paramount. Timing is paramount."

There's no room for error in the red zone and there's a lot of in-game adjustments that occur. How the coaching staff might prepare for a defense to play Jones could be completely different on gameday, that's why Jones is such an important piece because in a lot of ways his coverage plays a role in the play-call Sarkisian makes.

"For us the uniqueness is how are they going to defend Julio? It may be an un-scouted look, something that has not been on tape is the way they are going to defend us," Sarkisian said. "That takes some of the adjustment from Matt, myself, for Julio running those routes. A lot in game adjustment that way. But at the end of the day, we were so close on so many different opportunities that we just have to tighten that screw a little bit more and that's been the focus all offseason in the red zone and I think it's going to pay dividends for us."

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