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Atlanta Falcons Positives: Julio Jones Has Paid Off Early

Amidst all the negatives that have been attached to this disappointing 2-3 start for the Falcons, Julio Jones is most certainly not one of them. Atlanta's first-round pick has already amassed 25 receptions for 358 yard on the year, placing him among the top 20 players league-wide in both categories. That also puts Jones on pace for over 1000 receiving yards during his rookie season, assuming he doesn't miss any time beyond next Sunday.

Had this been anyone else, those numbers would be astounding. In recent memory, wide receivers haven't usually adjusted to the NFL so quickly. Georgia Tech product Demaryius Thomas, the top receiver taken in the 2010 draft, only made 22 catches for 282 yards in his entire rookie season. Even a receiver as talented as Calvin Johnson didn't crack 1000 yards in his rookie year (his total was 756 yards, albeit catching passes from Jon Kitna and not Matt Ryan).

So has Julio Jones paid off? Though he's only played five games, I'd answer that question with a resounding yes. He's an athletic marvel, has shown superb route-running ability, and has displayed the ability to beat out cornerbacks running deep routes as well. If Ryan can finally improve his accuracy on the deep ball, Julio might be racking up yardage faster than ever before.

Though Jones has yet to score a touchdown, his 11-catch, 127-yard effort against Seattle absolutely could've been the difference between a win and a loss. When comparing him to other rookie receivers, especially this year, Julio has also been impressing: he is one of only three rookie receivers to top 150 yards on the year (the other two are A.J. Green and Doug Baldwin).

So in all of the controversy concerning play calling and disappointing starts, let's not forget that Ryan will have this guy catching passes for at least the next three-plus seasons. And hey, let's not forget, Julio did the impossible last week against Green Bay: the Falcons called a WR reverse, and it actually worked! Thanks Julio!

For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.