NFL morning after: Julio Jones is playing like no receiver ever


Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had a whopping 300 receiving yards in yesterday’s win over the Panthers, but 300 is not the number I want to focus on this morning.

The number I want to focus on is 96.9. That’s the number of yards per game that Jones has averaged over the course of his six-year NFL career. And it’s an extraordinary number.

Jones’s average of 96.9 yards a game is the best in NFL history, but it’s not just the best ever — it’s the best ever by a huge margin. In fact, no other player in NFL history has even come within 10 yards of Jones’s average. The second-best receiver in NFL history in terms of average yards per game is Calvin Johnson, who averaged 86.1 yards a game.

Everyone who follows football knows that Jones is a good receiver, but I’m not sure that many people realize that Jones is the most productive receiver on a per-game basis in NFL history, and it’s not even close.

Part of this, of course, is the era Jones plays in: Jones has better numbers than Jerry Rice had at the same point in his career, and better numbers than Don Hutson had at the same point in his career, but that’s not to say Jones is as great a player as Rice and Hutson were. Thanks to rules changes and strategy changes, passing yardage has steadily gone up around the NFL, and it’s a lot easier for a receiver to have 100, 200 or even 300 yards in a game than it used to be.

But even in this era of inflated receiving numbers, none of Jones’s contemporaries are even close to that 96.9 yards per game. Jones, who through four games this season is on pace for an NFL record 1,952 receiving yards, is playing like no other receiver, ever.

Here are my other thoughts on Sunday’s games:

Can we get some common sense on penalties? During the London game, Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson viciously drilled Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson with a helmet-to-helmet hit, the kind of hit that is a threat to the game of football’s continuing existence and that the NFL has insisted it is doing everything it can to eliminate from the game. Robinson got up and spun the football, a silly celebration that harms no one. So how do NFL rules handle that? Jackson and Robinson both get 15-yard penalties, which offset — except that Robinson’s penalty is more severe, and he’s warned that if he does it again he’ll be ejected from the game. Why on earth does the NFL handle penalties this way? A helmet-to-helmet hit should be a 25-yard penalty. A celebration shouldn’t be any penalty at all unless it delays the game, in which case it should be a five-yard delay of game penalty. It’s ridiculous that the NFL overreacts to celebrations and under-reacts to helmet-to-helmet hits.

I like Mike Tomlin’s approach to two-point conversions. After the Steelers scored their first touchdown on Sunday night against the Chiefs, Tomlin decided to go for two, the Steelers made it, and they led 8-0. That shouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary, but it is: Tomlin is the only coach in the NFL who ever goes for two early in games like that. Other coaches only go for two when the “chart” tells them to go for two based on the score and the circumstances late in the game, but Tomlin goes for two any time he thinks his team will have a good matchup. It works, as the Steelers are 9-for-13 on two-point conversions over the last two years since the NFL changed its extra point rule, and I’m baffled at why no other coach is as aggressive about going for two as Tomlin.

Jeff Fisher doesn’t know what constitutes a catch. Fisher should know as much about the rules of the NFL as anyone, given his many years on the league’s Competition Committee. But he challenged two clearly correct calls on incomplete passes in the second half of Sunday’s game in Arizona. I can only assume that Fisher is as confused about the NFL’s convoluted catch rules as the rest of us — or he was hoping the referee would be confused enough that he would award the Rams catches they clearly hadn’t made. It doesn’t speak well for the NFL’s wacky enforcement of its catch rules that a coach like Fisher would think there was a chance he would win challenges like those.

A whole lot of coaches are on the hot seat. Is it just me or are there more coaches than usual who look cooked after four weeks? Gus Bradley in Jacksonville, Mike Mularkey in Tennessee, Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis, Mike McCoy in San Diego, John Fox in Chicago, Jim Caldwell in Detroit and Sean Payton in New Orleans all seem like they’re past their expiration dates in their respective stops. Some of those guys are good coaches — Payton has won a Super Bowl in New Orleans — but a coach can reach a point when his stuff stops working, and those coaches all seem like they’ve reached that point in their current stops.

Maybe Case Keenum’s not so bad after all. Since returning from that ugly concussion he suffered last year, Keenum has actually been decent as the Rams’ starting quarterback. In the eight games since his return (four this year in Los Angeles and four last year in St. Louis), Keenum has thrown seven touchdowns to only four interceptions, and the Rams are 6-2.

Brian Hoyer’s not so bad either. Hoyer has started two games with the Bears, and in both of them he has topped 300 yards while throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions. Jay Cutler has started 99 games with the Bears, and he only has two games with 300 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Hoyer is not a great quarterback, but he’s a serviceable starter and an above-average backup.

Coaches need to be more careful with their quarterbacks. I was shocked how late into Sunday night’s Steelers-Chiefs blowout that Mike Tomlin left Ben Roethlisberger in the game and Andy Reid left Alex Smith in the game. What, exactly, is the point of Smith throwing passes while losing 43-7 in the final minute? What if Smith had suffered a serious injury at such a meaningless point in the game? It’s crazy not to pull your quarterback once the game is out of reach.

Terrelle Pryor is one of the NFL’s best young receivers. It’s amazing what Pryor, the former Ohio State quarterback, is doing as the Browns’ top receiver. And it’s also amazing how long it took him to get a shot as a receiver in the NFL. After washing out as an NFL quarterback, Pryor couldn’t get a job in the NFL, spending the 2014 season out of football. It’s shocking that all 32 teams — knowing the kind of big, fast athlete Pryor is — passed on the chance to sign him when he was available. The Browns wisely brought him in, moved him from quarterback to receiver, and are now reaping the benefits.

The Bills played hard for Rex Ryan. Call Ryan a loudmouthed buffoon if you want, but don’t say his players don’t play hard for him. With their backs against the wall, the Bills have won two very impressive games in a row after yesterday’s 16-0 win in New England. I’m still skeptical this Bills team will make the playoffs, but Ryan has his team playing well after a shaky start to the year.

53 responses to “NFL morning after: Julio Jones is playing like no receiver ever

  1. Pryor seems like a good, hard working guy too, which makes that all the more strange. Credit to the Browns; that’s the only smart move they’ve made in years besides dumping T-Rich for a first rounder.

  2. Don Hutson doesn’t get enough credit for the way he played the game and the fact his records stood for so long until Rice played the game.

  3. Few thoughts…

    A. Julio is a beast.
    B. These taunting penalties are WAY out of control.
    C. As much as I dislike Fisher, NO ONE KNOWS what a catch is these days.

  4. It’s kind of amazing you were able to find a picture of Julio Jones that also included a member of the Panthers’ secondary. That must have taken some time.

  5. “Part of this, of course, is the era Jones plays in…”

    No player, regardless of position, in the salary cap era can be fairly compared with someone that played before it. Even inside the cap era, any player whose career started before the patty cake…er…Polian era began can’t be fairly compared to one who started his career after ’06. Looking at the leaders list in career YPG t of the top ten started their careers after ’06, that’s no coincidence. That said, it is always fair to compare guys in the same era and Jones’ numbers are staggering in comparison to his peers. AJ Green and AB are the closest to his average and they are 14 YPG off his pace, trulry impressive.

  6. So you’re blaming the NFL for an official’s missed call? I think the league has made it clear they want head shots penalized. If an official misses the call that doesn’t mean it’s the league’s fault.

  7. Pryor refused to play anything but QB. Plenty of teams wanted him as a Receiver/TE. The position change was about Pryor’s willingness to give up on being a QB. The difference in humility between Tebow and Pryor is why Pryor is still in this league.

  8. “Why on earth does the NFL handle penalties this way?”


    You’re really ecpecting to find logic in the NFL rulebook???

    That’s adorable….

  9. “A whole lot of coaches are on the hot seat.”

    Didn’t Chuck Pagano just get a new contract?

  10. It’s awesome that Julio and A.J. Green came out in the same draft. I love numbers as much as anyone, but they don’t tell the whole story. Some WRs never played with a great QB. Some offenses force the ball to their top WR, while others spread it around. I look back on that first season Randy Moss played with Brady, and imagine what he could have done with a great QB for his entire career. When he went to New England he was far beyond his prime years, and he shattered records.

  11. “A helmet-to-helmet hit should be a 25-yard penalty.”

    So so long to NFL football as we know it once this generation of chucklehead gets into the corner office. It is already half gone dude. Take your time erasing the sport completely.

  12. 2 observations:

    1) completely agree with the comment regarding leaving QB’s in the game when it’s out of reach . . . Tomlin did the same thing last week when we were getting our beatdown in Philly; it’s not worth the risk.

    2) also agree with statement number 1 regarding the severity of the penalty . . . ridiculous call. By the way, where was the call in the game last night when the whistle had blown, the Chief’s were still piling on and took Roethlisberger to the ground? Incredible that there was no penalty on that call.

  13. The Bengals DID ask him to move to wide receiver in training camp in 2015 but he refused. He wanted to be QB or nothing and Hue said they were set at QB. So, Bengals cut him. Later in the season he signed with Cleveland and now they are geniuses to utilize him as a WR. No, I believe TP just finally realized that to stay in the league he needed to wise up and listen to what people were telling him.

  14. You guys are such hypocrites….Last week Jones had 1 catch for 16 years and you were all over him………Now he has a monster game and you have his bust ready for Canton………pump the brakes……..

  15. In a parallel universe Derek Carr is throwing TD passes to Julio Jones as members of the Browns……

  16. Speaking of Helmet to Helmet hits, how was Brisset not pulled from the game yesterday to be evaluated after taking a shot to the helmet, and looking shaky on the way up? Looked identical to when Hochuli pulled Tyrod. No consistency.

  17. Julio Jones is much better at throwing the ball to himself than A.J. Green is. I’ve always said this!

    Strangely, the only teams that even need QBs are teams like Arizona, Dallas, Pittsburg, NY Giants or any team Peyton Manning played for. Those teams actually have heroic QB’s that block, throw it and then run down the field and catch it themselves.

  18. charliecharger says:
    Oct 3, 2016 9:38 AM
    It’s awesome that Julio and A.J. Green came out in the same draft. I love numbers as much as anyone, but they don’t tell the whole story. Some WRs never played with a great QB. Some offenses force the ball to their top WR, while others spread it around. I look back on that first season Randy Moss played with Brady, and imagine what he could have done with a great QB for his entire career. When he went to New England he was far beyond his prime years, and he shattered records.

    I don’t know about “FAR” beyond prime years as he was still just running by everyone and set the TD record – but I will def say a prime Randy Moss is the most scariest, most gifted wide receiver the league has ever seen. Julio is great, AB is great, Odell (sure, whatever) but give me a prime Randy Moss any day on physical ability.

  19. Julio plays in a time where passing is much more prevalent, but there are also usually 1-3 more pass-catchers on the field than there was during Hutson and Rice’s eras. Meaning, more passes are being thrown now but there are more people on the field to soak up targets.

  20. Josh Norman was flagged, unsportsman fro emulating a bow & arrow, after a plus -play. immediately after the game, Norman is drug tested.

    Sheesh! the dude leaves the panthers in the offseason and becomes a criminal.

  21. Julio Jones is playing like no receiver ever. – I hate Jones because he went to ‘Bama (I’m an Auburn fan) and he plays for the Falcons (I’m a Panthers fan). I knew he was going to shred our rookie DBs, but not like this. BTW, it is NOT time for the Panthers to panic. We are in EXACTLY the same spot we were 3 years ago – 1-3 and coming off a blowout loss. We went 11-1 the rest of the year. Tampa and New Orleans have no defense. We will be at 3-3 in short order and back toward the top.

    Can we get some common sense on penalties? – That’s never going to happen. You see, for some ridiculous reason, the officials think people come to the game or tune in just to see them. They are so power-drunk with those flags that they have lost their grip on reality. Everybody thought the celebrations by Randy Moss, TO, Joe Horn and Chad Johnson were so evil they decided the only thing to do was throw unsportsmanlike conduct penalty flags on people for running through the pregame smoke too fast. Absolutely stupid. And yes, I agree with the idea of a 25-yard penalty for helmet-to-helmet hits. And if such a hit happens when a team is inside the 25-yard line, none of this half the distance to the goal crap. Put it on the 1. Also, penalties of different yardage should NEVER offset. A defensive PI should never be offset by an illegal motion foul. Stop this already!

    A whole lot of coaches are on the hot seat. – I could have told you in 2008 that football had long since left John Fox in the dust. He thinks it’s still 1965 and everyone abides by the Vince Lombardi philosophy, “Three things can happen when you throw a pass, and two of them are bad.” He still has a house here in Charlotte on the Quail Hollow golf course. He should be sitting on the back porch next August when the PGA Championship comes to town.

    Coaches need to be more careful with their quarterbacks. – Here is where I disagree. You cannot have anything to do with the sport of football if you have the “what if I/he get(s) hurt?” mentality. That’s when you get destroyed. If you want to pull your starters just for rest, like NBA teams do when winning by 30 in the 4th quarter, fine. But do not pull them because you are scared they will get hurt. I think it’s actually a good thing for starters to stay in when you’re getting drilled. It leaves a terrible taste in your mouth and motivates you to do better next week.

  22. The threshold for concussion protocol hinges solely on the viewpoint of an official who is subjectively judging the hit and players’ appearance. which means it all comes down to the players’ ability to act like he isn’t woozy… so you see guys staying on the ground for jussssst a bit longer, but not too long, before trying to get up to avoid stumbling and looking concussed.

    Same as before- players don’t want to admit concussions and don’t want to come out of the game.

    Not same as before- NFL and former players have made the issue public enough to where no player going foward should be able to float a claim fro the NFL being liable for any damage that comes from their CHOICE to both play NFL fooball AND act like they aren’t concussed.

    Silly system, as are most systems that are clearly predicated on the priority of not getting sued instead of the crusade being touted (player saftey).

  23. Julio Jones had 1 catch for 16 yards against one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL on Monday Night Football last week, and failed to get over 100 yards in Week 1.

    The only reason he’s on pace for an NFL record is because of 1 game. He’s good, but this is a massive overreaction to just one game. I seem to remember the same Falcons starting 5-0 last year…

  24. “A whole lot of coaches are on the hot seat.”

    “Brian Hoyer’s not so bad either.”

    Coach Fox is on the hot seat, but he’s got a QB with a hot-ish hand. How does that work again?

  25. Hey TBRALLYCRY, sounds awfully familiar to the Patriots crowning Brisset/Garroppolo the next best thing, just to get blanked by the, wait for it, Bills, and wait again, at home.

  26. To be fair, looking at Julio Jones career averages when he’s in his prime and comparing it to players career averages when they’ve played much longer is deceiving.

    If Julio has a reasonably long career, I’m sure the last 3-4 years of his career will bring his yards per game average down quite a bit.

  27. And in regards to players staying in games when they are out of reach, it’s simple, money. Don’t forget, these players have escalators in their contracts that are based on both stats and playing time. Pulling them could create quite the dynamic at the end of the season when those few instances results in missing out on thousands, or even millions of dollars.

  28. I honestly didn’t realize JJ11 was putting up those kinds of numbers. You can’t argue with that kind of production, but you can put it in perspective…. as the article points out this has become a passing league. WRs more than any position need good fortune to unlock their potential. Talented receivers with good QBs and OLs have an advantage over talented receivers with bad QBs and/or bad OLs. It also helps Jones to have 4 games/year against New Orleans and Tampa… and frankly Carolina hasn’t always been that great either and might not be very good right now. Schedules do make a difference on your numbers.. and it obviously benefited Jerry Rice the same way. He had Montana and Young and (ironically) got to play in the worst division in football… terrible Atlanta teams twice a year, as well as terrible New Orleans teams and so-so LA Rams teams. You take a receiver like Al Toon or Eddie Brown… Jerry Rice contemporaries… and put them in Rice’s place, they would have had a lot of success too. And there’s no way Rice has the same career if he’d played in Detroit, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, etc.

  29. As a Rams fan I’m excited and shocked to be sitting at 3-1 and this is being done despite Jeff Fisher. I could not believe he had the stupidity to challenge the 2 catches that were obviously not catches and proceed to lose 2 timeouts in a close game against a division rival. As it pertains to Case Keenum, yes he has looked better in recent weeks but the reason he has had a few long td passes is because the opposing defenses have zero respect for his passing game and rightfully so. They are stacking the box with 8-9 man fronts and Gurley has no where to go. He would have a better chance of finding a hole if he ran straight into a brick wall.

  30. How many times are guys like Brian Hoyer going to fool us? So now he’s a “serviceable starter” and a pretty good player? Time and time again these career clip board holders come in and play good to great for 3 to 4 weeks before they start reminding everybody again why they have played for half the teams in the league without ever sticking anywhere.

    Relax – Brian Hoyer is Brian Hoyer and Case Keenum is Case Keenum, and they will remind us of this fact soon enough.

  31. As one who was disappointed in the decision to retain Mularkey I would be interested in seeing a freshly separated Peyton in Nashville.
    Just a frustration at the quarter post.

  32. With the Giants not playing and my disgust level with the NFL at an all time high this was my first football free Sunday in many an NFL season. Apparently I missed some events but only one or 2 competitive games. Those Julio Jones stats are staggering.

  33. I have to agree 100% on your comments ….
    > regarding the idiotic penalties assessed and how often they result in offsetting fouls; nothing!
    > regarding how much more effective Hoyer is than Cutler and you didn’t even have to point out that Cutler sucks and needs to go!

  34. JSpicoli says:
    Oct 3, 2016 9:39 AM
    “A helmet-to-helmet hit should be a 25-yard penalty.”

    So so long to NFL football as we know it once this generation of chucklehead gets into the corner office. It is already half gone dude. Take your time erasing the sport completely.

    Sometimes, when an animal is caught in a trap it has to chew off its own leg to survive. This is an example of that. It will only take one player get killed in a prime time game with 30 million people watching to end football as we know it. The game’s existence is already in peril due to the research coming out about concussions, and our increasing self awareness in general about human health and longevity. The incredible pressure for everyone to win a zero sum game is also leading to these guys being pumped full of controversial and potentially dangerous drugs to overcome pain and injury so they can play. This is not good for the long term outlook of the game.

    Therefore, you make some concessions for safety in the interest of preserving what you can of the sport. Not saying I agree or disagree with this particular point about a 25 yard penalty, but the the foundation of the argument for it is making sure the sport doesn’t get banned, and that people continue volunteering to play it. I would choose 100 more years of slightly watered down football over 10 more years of unadulterated football, and I think most people would agree. I also don’t really get my jollies from watching a sickening head to head collision that leaves me wondering if the guy is going to be able to walk again. Perhaps that makes me a “softy.” I don’t know.

  35. Note to Browns FO: When considering a trade down, take a look at that player that you are foregoing, you know, the one that is creating the demand for the spot you’re trading out of and instead of trading that pick and moving down just, you know, pick that player instead. Let’s see how that works out for a little while.

  36. Julio Jones is a great player, especially to fantasy geeks, but that was a bad trade. It only looks good because Cleveland wiffed on the picks. That’s what the Browns do. The Browns coulda drafted MWilkerson or CHayward. DDeCastro, DHightower or Harrison Smith. All were available. It coulda been a Jimmie Johnson coup.

    What’s Atlanta ever won? What has CJohnson, DBryant, AJ Green, RMoss, etc ever won? What WR has ever won a SBowl for his team? Most get 6-8 touches a game. Don’t give me JRice, those 49er teams were loaded on both sides of the ball, and on the sidelines. Don’t get the attraction. Parcells and Belichick seem to have that opinion as well.

  37. Oh please stop. He was matched against rookie receivers. Julio Jones is not going to take the Falcons to the promise land unless he can play defense too. He couldn’t do much against the Saints rookie CBs a week earlier.

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