It turns out Julio Jones wasn’t the missing piece to the Tennessee Titans winning the Super Bowl.
Despite winning the top seed from the AFC, the Titans really aren’t any closer to a championship than they were a year ago. Sure, Tennessee played divisional weekend this year, but that was just down to a bye.
For the second year in a row, Tennessee lost its first playoff game at home.
Jones’ stat line in the 16-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Saturday’s AFC Divisional Round was respectable. He led Tennessee with six catches and posted 62 yards. Only AJ Brown had more receiving yards for the Titans, and no Tennessee wide receiver outside of the team’s dynamic Jones-Brown duo had more than 13 receiving yards in Saturday’s game.
But as vital as he was on Saturday, Jones just isn’t dynamic enough anymore. He suffered numerous injuries in his last two seasons with the Falcons and missed seven more games in 2021.
When he was in the field, he failed to produce Julio Jones numbers. With 31 catches, 434 receiving yards and a touchdown, Jones had the worst statistical season of his career, even including his 2013 campaign where he played just five games.
In the final eight weeks of the 2021 regular season, Jones had 10 receptions for 98 yards in four games. In the other four games, Jones did not play.
He’s averaged 9.8 yards per reception in those last four games. Although a small sample size, it was the first time in Jones’ career that he averaged less than 10 yards per catch in four games. Even in his most productive postseason game, Jones recorded just 10.3 yards per reception.
Jones averaged 15.2 yards per catch in a decade with the Falcons.
Some of the drop in yards per strike for Jones could be attributed to the Tennessee offense. Ryan Tannehill has struggled with interceptions this season and threw three in the playoff loss.
Brown also already had a rapport with Tannehill and was Tennessee’s leading receiver. Jones was used more as a secondary, shorter-range target — not the dynamic weapon the Falcons have used for a decade.
Still, it’s clearer than ever that the Falcons traded Jones at the right time. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s disappointing Jones won’t be “a Falcon for life”. But for the Falcons’ future, the franchise has maxed out Jones’ value, especially considering Jones backed the Falcons in a corner, saying “I’m leaving” on national television.
The Titans seemed to be behaving like villains when they received Jones for a second-round pick in 2022 and a conditional pick in 2023. On top of that, the Falcons are paying part of his salary through 2022.
But now, an offseason later, Jones is nowhere near two draft picks, including a second-rounder.
With holes in the roster, the Falcons should make good use of their extra second-round pick. The Titans’ loss on Saturday means the Falcons will pick 58th in the second round with the Tennessee selection. Some very good players have gone into this draft slot over the past few years.
The Kansas City Chiefs drafted linebacker Nick Bolton 58th overall last year. Bolton had 112 tackles and 11 tackles for a loss as a rookie.
In 2020, the Minnesota Vikings took custody of Ezra Cleveland at No. 58. He started 26 NFL games in his first two seasons, including 17 last season.
The Seattle Seahawks drafted center Ethan Pocic with the 58th overall pick in 2017. Like Cleveland, Pocic didn’t make the Pro Bowl but was a useful starter — something the Falcons desperately need along the way. offensive line.
In 2015, the Arizona Cardinals took on rusher Markus Golden at No. 58. Golden has three double-digit sack seasons in his career and posted 11.0 sacks in 2021. After finishing last in the NFL with 18 sacks, the Falcons could use multi-pass rushers in this draft.
They could also use a wide receiver. Jones left a hole that the Falcons have yet to replace (thanks in part to Calvin Ridley missing the season).
But that hole would still be there if Jones remained on Atlanta’s roster. At least the Falcons now have an extra second-round pick.