The Patriots surely have gone to work on a defensive game plan aimed at neutralizing the Atlanta passing attack and, specifically, receiver Julio Jones. There’s a chance that, no matter how New England configures the X’s, the O named Julio will still find a way to catch passes, gain yards, and potentially score touchdowns.
On Tuesday, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia didn’t say that specifically when praising Jones, but the point came through Patricia’s remarks, loud and clear.
“[W]e saw him a couple of years ago and studied him,” Patricia told reporters. “He’s probably just one of the most dynamic players in the league. I usually don’t wind up comparing him to other people; I wind up comparing other people to him just because of his skill set and his ability.”
Specifically, the Patriots saw the Falcons in September 2013, for a game in Atlanta. Jones caught six passes for 108 yards; the Patriots, however, won the game, 30-23. Of course, that was before the Falcons underwent an offensive explosion with Kyle Shanahan drawing up the attack.
“The things that he does for them and what he can do is he does a great job of moving around into different positions,” Patricia said. “Coach Shanahan puts him in different spots. He’ll try to get him working different positions to get a matchup that he likes, or a particular formation that gives the defense problems, and then they’ll really use him in a variety of ways. He can run underneath routes, he has great speed, he has great hands, he has great body control, and he’s very, very strong. A bigger corner, smaller corner, whatever it is, he can push on the [defensive backs], lean and be able to play physical at the line of scrimmage, plus physical downfield with them, and still come up with the ball. He does a great job of tracking the ball in the air, can go up and high point it and get it.”
In other words, Julio Jones can be “covered,” and he can still make the catch.
“He’s got great hands and like I said, does a great job after the catch,” Patricia said. “Just his ability to get the ball, get vertical into the defense towards the end zone, stiff-arm a defender, break a tackle, run away from guys, it’s just he’s such a dynamic player in that aspect that he can give you a lot of problems. He’ll go vertical, he’ll run the intermediate routes, he’s very good at the top of the route, he does an unbelievable job of stemming and using his skill set to get separation at the top of the route in both man-to-man, and he does a great job of seeing zone coverage and sitting down. He and Matt Ryan have great chemistry where the route might be changed [because of] something that was called but because of the coverage, they’ve adjusted it and he’s been able to work himself into open space and then Ryan will get him the ball. He’s a great player.”
Yes he is, and it’s going to be a challenge unlike any the Patriots have encountered in a Super Bowl since they somehow outscored the Greatest Show on Turf in early 2002.