The Legacy Of Julio Jones

Julio Jones Legacy
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Every so often, an athlete comes along that has such a profound effect on the landscape of the game that they are recognizable by one name only. Brady. Shaq. LeBron. Peyton. Moss. Kobe. And now, Julio. The legacy of Julio Jones has been consistent as a driving force for the Falcons. Jones’ accolades include seven Pro Bowls, two All-Pros, and an All-Decade Team for the 2010s.

10 years, 1 week, and 2 days later (but who’s counting?) the Falcons look to move on from this living legend and have sent him to Nashville in exchange for a 2023 2nd-round and 4th-round pick, while also giving the Titans a 6th round pick for their troubles. Let us reflect upon some of the greatest moments of his career and why, as the Falcons put it, “#11 is no longer just a number to the Atlanta Falcons franchise”.

The Historic Legacy of Julio Jones in Atlanta

First Touchdown

In his rookie year, Julio Jones had a huge impact on the offense. In Jones’ first game he had six targets with five receptions for 71 yards which equates to almost 12 yards per target. Before injuring his hamstring in Week 6, he had already eclipsed the 100-yard mark twice against the Buccaneers and Seahawks. But his first taste of the end zone had eluded his grasp.

He then returned from his injury in Week 9 against the struggling Indianapolis Colts. The Curtis Painter/Dan Orlovsky-led Colts came into the Georgia Dome with an 0-8 record. If we were being honest, there was no hope in sight for a victory anytime soon. Jones said that what he remembered most from that moment was that “I know they tried to take my first touchdown away from me.” Matt Ryan went on to describe the play: “We had the single-safety look, and I basically just threw it as far as I could. And [Julio] made an unbelievable adjustment on the ball.”

The catch was initially ruled incomplete, but Falcons head coach Mike Smith threw the challenge flag after seeing the replay on the video board. Julio would go on to say: “I knew it was a touchdown, all the way.” Jones would then go on to also score his 2nd ever touchdown on a slant that he took 80 yards up the field. Almost as if to show Falcons’ fans what he was going to bring to the table for years to come.

Julio Jones’ 300-yard Game

Julio Jones started the year off slow with one catch for 16 yards against the Saints. However, he made up for it against the Carolina Panthers. “They put the young corner on me man-to-man, if they would have two-manned me or [cheated] a safety over to me, Matt would have made great reads and hit the other guys that were open…But they singled me out today one-on-one. And Matt made some great decisions.”

Julio had catches of 53, 43, 32, and rounded out the day with a 75-yard gallop to the end zone that put him directly at the 300-yard mark. These were only 4 of his 12 catches on the day but it outlined how Julio Jones was the ultimate receiving target. Julio not only can get you 8-10 when you need a first down but can break any play wide open for a huge gain/touchdown. Matt Ryan would go on to say “Julio played awesome. He was huge for us in critical situations and showed how great of a player he is.”

Falcons/Julio Handing Carolina Their Lone Loss

This moment typified the impact that Julio Jones had even when the Falcons weren’t at their best. The Falcons were 7-6 at the time, teetering towards mediocrity and inching away from the playoffs with each loss. They were now going against the Panthers.

Two weeks ago, the Panthers had throttled them 38-0 up in Charlotte on their way to a perfect 13-0 start. They were 14-0 coming into this game. Cam Newton was playing on another level that year and emerged as the favorite for the MVP. However, Newton had a bad day; he only threw for 142 yards and ran for 46 and did not register one touchdown pass. But Matt Ryan did, one of the biggest ones that they would have that season.

Matt Ryan, with around 2:25 left in the 3rd, dropped back and had to evade some early pressure in the pocket. He pointed downfield as Julio was streaking between Luke Kuechly and Free Safety Kurt Coleman. Coleman slips as he tries to keep up with the speedy Jones and could not recover. Kuechly is there, step for step, with Jones as the ball comes down. Kuechly is about to make a play on the ball like he has all year. The Panthers defense is about to get another 3rd down stop. The Panthers defense was ready to give the ball back to their struggling yet impactful MVP frontrunner QB with a small lead.

Julio had other plans. He goes over the top of the outstretched hands of Kuechly and takes the ball from him. Julio then outruns both him and the now-upright Coleman and races to the end-zone, a race that Julio wins 9 times out of 10. “Julio made a great play on it, that’s really all there is. I thought I was in a good spot, but he went up and got it.” Those are the words of 7x Pro-Bowl, 5x First-Team All-Pro LB Luke Kuechly telling the world how Julio Jones is simply different from all the rest.

A Final Salute

I believe I speak for a majority of Falcons’ fans when I say that this is not the conclusion that they were looking for. Atlantans were hoping for a way to keep Julio with the Falcons. They had built an offense that, with him, would feature a receiving corps unlike any other in the NFL. Alas, it is not to be for he is with a title contender now, as he deserves. It will be a pity to watch his feats of athleticism and quiet dominance from the sidelines of another team. The name Quintorris Lopez Jones Jr. will always be equated with the word “Legendary”. The legacy of Julio Jones will never die in the eyes of Falcons’ fans.

Thank you for all the memories, Julio. Falcons’ fans will never forget them.

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