Revisiting the uncool episodes of my childhood sucks, but for the sake of this article, I rummaged through the Moments that Made Me Who I am Today Box to recall that spine-chilling evening in 1995.
I lasted six minutes watching the season premiere of Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask. This disturbing scene, in which the main character dons on an evil mask then proceeds to scream for help when it won’t come off, impelled me to sprint upstairs with tears streaming down my cheeks. I’ve despised the horror genre ever since. (Thanks, R.L. Stine.)
A fear just as terrifying commences after the 12 Most Wanted (number may vary) is selected. The second round of the fantasy football draft is equally as frightening for us fantasy geeks who don't know which player to pick. For us scaredy-cats, allow Julio Jones to be our Snuggie this season.
Prepare or Beware:
What keeps defensive coordinators up all night -- the Falcons' offense! Nightmares consist of their offensive unit breaking out of the huddle and getting into the 11 personnel (one running back/one tight end, respectively) or the other sets (12, 21, or 22).
In this Atlanta Falcons' highlight clip (0:05), the Falcons start in shotgun formation, 10 personnel (one RB, no TEs), against the Philadelphia Eagles. This means that there is basic protection up front with running back Michael Turner as an extra blocker to keep a troubled Ryan safe (but you see him swinging out, anyway).
Timing is the sole component to the success or failure for this play: Ryan counts to three, plants his foot and heaves the rock towards the left sideline to a…that’s right.
Wide open Jones. A sophomore then, torched three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in a footrace on his fade route. Ryan's perfect throw falls in the soft spot of the Eagles zone defense – before Eagles safety Nate Allen can save the day.
Fast-forward to the 0:20-mark in this video for your viewing pleasure. The Falcons come out in the 11 personnel. Defenses think run, however Ryan takes a quick step back, tosses it to Jones on a screen route and the wideout does the rest by taking it to the house.
The Falcons don't hesitate to use Ryan's arm. For them, dumping the ball off to a receiver in the red zone after achieving a fresh set of downs (1st-and-10) is an sure-enough option. Their certainty baffles me -- what can defenses possibly do this year to stop the Falcons, especially now with the signing of a stable running back Steven Jackson, and the return of Mr. Consistent, Tony Gonzalez?
A dynamic player-maker in every aspect, Jones’ athletic ability was highly-touted since his days in high school and into his tenure with the Crimson Tide. Atlanta fell in love and moved up to draft him with the 6th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (trade with Cleveland).
In his first two years in the NFL, Jones showcased his superior athleticism and natural gifts. Although he has already recorded Pro Bowl stats: 79 receptions, 1,198 yards, 10 touchdowns – don’t be surprised when the ambitious third-year star sets new career highs all across the board.
Evolution of the Falcons' offense:
Since the drafting of Matt Ryan and the acquisition of ex-Charger (at the time) Michael Turner, the Falcons have revolved around a run-first attack.
For five seasons, Turner was handed the rock over 1,400 times. The drafting of Julio Jones, fused with the newfound development and maturation of Matt Ryan, has led to their evolution from their ground-and-pound/play-action mentality to their vertical style of play.
Bringing in offensive-minded guru Dirk Koetter marked the full turn-around in 2012, as both Roddy White and Jones registered over 1,000 yards, along with Ryan setting career highs in yards and touchdowns.
Jones will be the centerpiece in Dirk Koetter’s system in 2013. His newly-refined skillset will allow him to take on the full responsibilities of being the primary receiver. The super-effective, All-Pro Roddy White boasts six consecutive 1,000 seasons, yet I predict that the Falcons may convert him into a possession receiver.
Tony Gonzalez’s presence on the offensive unit:
A whopping 326 total catches coupled with 27 touchdown receptions since joining Atlanta in 2009 is a remarkable feat. Entering his 17th season (should be last), we’ve observed Mr. Consistent serve as Ryan’s security blanket.
Whether or not he will be featured heavily in Koetter’s offense this year remains secret, but it’s natural for us to assume that Koetter will gradually ease Gonzo out of the offense and fully rely on White and Jones more.
Evolution of Julio Jones:
And 2012 marked the evolution of the Falcons' offense. Julio Jones became a star throughout the course of the season. He earned his superstar reputation and elevated to an elite level in the 2013 NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers – by shredding the No. 3 ranked defense overall with 11 receptions for 182 yards and two touchdowns (158, if you subtract his final 24-yard reception with no time left).
Barring injuries and the continuing refinement of his skillset, we conclude that for Jones, the sky is the limit.
This year, instead of biting your nails, join me by crossing your fingers in hope, or folding your hands in prayer…
for Julio Jones’ availability in the second round.