Juuulio

Julio showed out last night for the Falcons:

In all, Ryan looked good. Jones looked, not to put too fine a point on it, great. Beyond the touchdown, he made a leaping catch over the middle and a tough grab down the sideline, and he even turned a screen pass into a 19-yard gain, at which point every Falcons fan exclaimed, “At last a screen! Dirk Koetter is a genius!”

Jones’ numbers: Seven passes thrown his way, six caught for 109 yards and six points. That’ll do.

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Falcons Looking for Big Things from a Healthy Julio

From the AJC.com:

We’re probably going to find out this season just how great Julio Jones is. He had a tremendous rookie season: 54 catches, 959 yards, eight touchdowns. Those are impressive numbers, even before considering this backdrop: 1) He was coming off pre-draft foot surgery that affected his offseason conditioning; 2) He was limited in work with the playbook and quarterback Matt Ryan because of the lockout; 3) He played much of the season with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss three full games and parts of others; 4) He was subjected to the play-calling of Mike Mularkey, who never utilized him in screens or designed nearly enough plays to get Jones the ball in open spaces.

Those are four pretty good reasons why Julio would have a better season, though the fourth is somewhat subjective.  And those stats aren’t bad, despite the time he missed.  Julio is such a physical receiver that it’s getting harder to imagine him going through a full season uninjured.

Mike Smith Talks About Julio

Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith thinks the future is bright for Julio Jones:

“Julio looks so much more comfortable and has a better understanding of not only what it takes with our system but being a professional football player,” Smith said in an interview on the Falcons website. “He’s just going to continue to get better and better. I thought he had a great season last year and we anticipate the maturation process to continue.”

Jones put together a very strong close to the 2011 season and the offseason work should have him poised to pick up where he left off. Between Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons should have no shortage of targets for Matt Ryan to throw to next season.

Given how much the Falcons gave up to draft Julio, the expectations won’t let up any time soon.

Question #3: How to Replace Julio Jones

In two previous posts, we’ve taken a look at questions surrounding the quarterbacks and offensive line for this year’s team. In this post, we’ll tackle the question of how to replace wide receiver Julio Jones.

From The Birmingham News

Let me end the suspense and answer the question quickly. We don’t have a single player on this year’s roster as talented as Jones.

We lost our last two starters at left tackle to the NFL as first round draft picks. No big deal. The next guy in line was the top recruit in the country last year.

We lost our 24-3 starting quarterback to graduation (and hopefully to the NFL), but we replace him with two guys that are more talented and were highly recruited. A big deal, but I think we’ll manage.

Julio Jones is a different story, however.

We have a slew of wideouts. Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks, Brandon Gibson, DeAndrew White, Kenny Bell and the list goes on. Heck, maybe even Duron Cater will eventually be eligible. But not one of those guys is more talented than Julio. He was one of those rare recruits – an in-state recruit by the way, that actually lived up to, or maybe even exceeded, the incredible recruiting hype. From his first scrimmage with the team it was evident he was special and now he’s already turning heads in Atlanta. Health permitting, he will have a fantastic career in the pros and he’s already drawing rave reviews. Let me repeat myself, we don’t have another Julio on our roster.

Julio finished his three year career at Alabama as our second all-time leader in receptions and yards. In 2010, he set the single season standard for catches (78) and yards (1,133). If he had returned for his senior season, he would have smashed the career marks beyond recognition.

But with that being said, I still think we have a good (maybe even great) group of receivers and I think they will do well this year.

Hanks brings with him 58 career receptions and six touchdowns. He’s not a burner, but he’s proven to be a tough, clutch receiver. Unfortunately, he’ll have to sit out the first two games in exchange for being eligible this year.

Maze also has impressive career totals: 80 receptions for 1,217 yards and seven touchdowns and has a decent chance of finishing his career in the top five for receptions and yards. He’s more of a deep threat than Hanks and can also return kickoffs and punts.

Marquis Maze (from WSJ.com)

Gibson’s career has been somewhat of an enigma. He had an impressive prep career, was a highly touted recruit, is a hard worker and great team player, but, for some reason, that hasn’t translated into quality playing time. Gibson will most likely start the season in the playing rotation (especially with Hanks missing the first two games) and has an excellent opportunity to finish his career on a very strong note, similar to the last #11 at Alabama, Matt Caddell.

Kenny Bell played in 10 games as a freshman last year and sophomore Michael Bowman, who redshifted last year after playing in four games in 2009, has been impressive at times this fall.

Redshirt freshman DeAndrew White has received a lot of positive press this fall, and if these reports are true, he’s ready to explode on the scene. Duron Carter, the high-profile son of NFLer Cris Carter is probably physically the most similar to Julio, but his enrollment this fall has been delayed and he’s missed valuable camp time.

So although no one receiver will replace Julio, the is an ample pool of talent to form a “replacement by committee.” There was a tendency over the Julio’s career for his quarterbacks to lock onto to him, often to the detriment of our other receivers (hey, who wouldn’t lock onto Julio?), however, that option won’t be available this year. As a result, Hanks’ and Mazes’ opportunities will increase significantly and the others in the group will have an opportunity to compete for a bunch of catches. Opposing defenses will no longer be able to double one player and ignore the others, so game plan-wise, this gives Bama a chance to to reset it’s philosophy and spread the ball around. There is plenty of talent at this position, but it’s either young or unproven. For Bama to live up to it’s lofty preseason ranking, this group will need to gel quickly and a go-to receiver will need to step up immediately.

Alabama Record Book Review, Preseason 2011

I received the Alabama football 2011 Media Guide in the mail last week.  (The online version can be downloaded here.)  Besides looking at the player bios, looking at the Alabama record book is my favorite part of the guide.

From Rolltide.com

Here’s a few observations after taking a look at this year’s edition:

Alabama loses it’s single season rushing record holder, Mark Ingram, who ran for 1,658 yards in 2009. Ingram, in three years, fell short of the all-time rushing record held by Shaun Alexander (3,565).

Ingram also finished his career with a 5.70 yards per carry average, good for second all-time at Alabama.

Trent Richardson’s 6.25 yards per carry average last year was good for the fifth best season average (minimum of 100 attempts).

Richardson has a career total of 1,451 rushing yards so he’s unlikely to break Alexander’s all-time mark (assuming 2011 is his last season with the Tide).

Greg McElroy finished his career as Alabama’s third all-time in passing yards (5,691) and first all-time in completion percentage (66.3% – minimum 200 attempts).  McElroy also set the single season mark last year for yards (2,987) and completion percentage (70.9% – minimum 200 completions).

If AJ McCarron wins the starting quarterback job this year, he has the opportunity to QB the tied for three full seasons. Philip Sims would potentially have four full seasons. Either QB would likely have a great opportunity to become the Tide’s top all-time passing leader and smash John Parker Wilson’s all-time career mark of 7,924 yards. Sims would likely be the Tide’s first 10,000 yard passer.

Either QB is likely to push 60 career touchdown passes, breaking JPW’s career mark of 47.

Julio Jones missed becoming the Tide’s all-time receiver (statistically) by 15 catches and 270 yards.

Richardson also missed the single season career kickoff yardage mark by 23 yards. The season  record is held by Javier Arenas (657 in 2007). In other words, Richardson missed the record by about one kickoff return. His season average last year of 26.2 yards per return is good for the third best season average of all-time.

Mark Barron has 10 career interceptions and Robert Lester has 8. It would take a monster year by either player to best Antonio Langham’s career mark of 19.

C.J. Moseley had two interceptions for touchdowns last year, tying the record for the most in a single season. One more pick six for Moseley gives him a tie for the career mark.

Of all the records mentioned here, I think Moseley has the best shot for setting either a season or career standard given his nose for the ball and the fast start he had as a freshman last year.

I don’t foresee Richardson breaking Ingram’s season rushing record this year. I also don’t see either QB passing for 3,000 yards, which would break McElroy’s season passing record.

A couple of things of note:

1) Alabama must replace it’s all-time leading QB and it’s second leading all-time running back and receiver (statistically speaking). Worthy backups await, but this is a tall order.

2) The most important stat for this year (other than winning)?  Completion percentage. McElroy smashed the season and career completion percentage marks (minimum 200 completions). If either Sims or McCarron get close to 65% this year, expect #14 to follow.