The Redskins’ defense will face arguably its biggest threat of the young season on Sunday: Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.
Jones leads the league in receptions (38) and is tied with Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown for No. 1 in receiving yards (478). His four receiving touchdowns, meanwhile, are tied for the second most.
In the first four games, the Redskins have faced some good players. But they haven't faced anyone who can single-handedly change the course of a contest the way Jones, 26, can.
“With Julio, if you create a player in Madden, that’s him,” Redskins cornerback Will Blackmon said Thursday. “He’s 6-3, 230 [and runs a] 4.4. What’s impressive is about him, is being at his height and his weight, he’s able to get in and out of breaks.”
“They just paid him a boatload of money," added Blackmon, referring to the five-year, $71.25 million contract extension that Jones signed in August: "So they got to feed him.”
Jones was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday with toe and hamstring injuries but he's expected to suit up at the Georgia Dome.
“You watch him on film and you watch him every Sunday and he’s a grown man," safety Trenton Robinson said. "He’s a serious problem, period. More than one person has to be on him at all times, basically. You have to know where he is at all times because he can take over a game, like our coaches said, by himself. If the ball goes to him, he’s capable of making any play an amazing play.”
Coach Jay Gruden said the Redskins' secondary must do three things in order to limit the damage Jones inflicts: be attentive to where he lines up, communicate and, most important, get him on the ground.
“He’s a great player wherever he [lines up],” Gruden said. “When you line up a great player at one spot, sometimes you can cloud to him, you can do some things to him. When you move him—you put him in the slot, you put him over here, you put him in motion—that’s a little bit more difficult. There’s a lot more communication that has to take place. [Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan] does a great job of moving him around, like most coaches do with excellent receivers. He's just somebody you have got to be aware of.”
And, of course, wrap up when you've got the chance. Jones is third in the league in yards after the catch (178).
“I made this reference the other day: it’s like he’s a great basketball player,” Gruden added. “He’s going to get his touches. He’s going to get his points. We’ve just got to make sure that he doesn’t hurt us with the over-the–top big plays and make sure when he does get the ball, that we have a group effort to get him down. His strength isn’t just running by you, he’s excellent after the catch. He runs through tackles and has got a big strong stiff arm and he’s hard to bring down. Safeties corners, corners, linebackers—we’re all going to have to have a great group effort as far as pursuit is concerned, to get him on the grass.”
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