Giving too much credit to a second-year receiver may seem overblown, but one startling fact shows his importance.
It may seem overwrought to put too much emphasis on Julio Jones's role in the Atlanta Falcons' offense, but one thing is abundantly clear -- games go far better when Matt Ryan can get his second-year receiver the ball.
In games this season where Jones has five receptions or more, than Falcons have won by an average of 11.0 points, while in games where Matt Ryan has gotten him the ball four times, or less the Falcons have won by just 3.8 points, on average. This is more than simply a number-two receiver getting yards, Jones' usage permeates the entire offense and helps set the tone. There's a reason why the Atlanta Falcons won last night again the New Orleans Saints -- a game, it should be noted, Jones had five receptions...Atlanta won by ten.
Roddy White and his 1,000 receiving yards may be what make the Falcons offense tick, but Julio Jones is the player who allows the offense to open up. When teams have him accounted for, or Matt Ryan is unable to find him often, it's here teams begin to stack the box, stop the run, and turn the offense one-dimensional. Like most truly great players, often the threat of Julio Jones is greater than the plays themselves -- and it's this aspect that has allowed so many big plays this season.
Last night's game came down to the Falcons defense stopping Drew Brees, but surely Dirk Koetter is realizing that his offense's success is tied to Julio Jones, and that feeding his second-year receiver the ball is of the utmost importance.