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Julio Jones' Training Camp Performance Drawing National Attention

The backs of my calves are sunburned, and have been for days. This is because the Atlanta Falcons offense works out on one side of the practice field, and the defense works out on the other. Julio Jones practices on the side that puts the sun at your back. Flowery Branch has lots of darkened calves.

The idea of "watching Julio Jones at training camp" is kind of a redundant activity. If you're in the area, you're watching Julio Jones. Ignoring the Ray Edwards acquisition, Jacquizz Rodgers pickup and Tyson Clabo retention, it's hard to overlook the fact that Jones' play this year will decide whether this offseason was a success for Atlanta or not.

But even if you've never heard of him, you still watch him.

It bears repeating: he's huge. As monstrous as he looks in that Under Armour commercial. Quarterbacks like to test him by zipping the ball over his head during drills. Coaches stay in his ear after each play, to which he responds by nodding and gesturing at what he should've done. At one point he stepped on a defender's foot and had to sit out for a minute, squatting and pointing at his right ankle. Not an eye on the field left that ankle.

Atlanta media, Falcons players and Falcons coaches are impressed. And so far, out-of-towners are doing even more to further Jones' legend. Mike Mayock, perhaps TV's best NFL talent analyst (we say this even when he dislikes Atlanta players), said Jones "may already be the most impressive player" the Falcons have. Peter King, the most widely read NFL writer, said he looks like a five-year veteran.

All eyes on Julio. Brandyn Harvey, last year's momentary camp stud, made a great leaping catch at one point Friday. The assembled fans on the other side of the field didn't even seem to notice. Jones made the same catch a minute later to wild applause.

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