This is the third of a 10-part, position-by-position series analyzing the Falcons’ roster after their offseason program. Coming Thursday: Tight ends. When the Falcons report for training camp on July 26, two-time All-Pro Julio Jones will return from offseason foot surgery. Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel and potentially Justin Hardy should form a solid group of four receivers.
Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones’ rehabilitation from his offseason foot surgery has progressed well and he has targeted the start of training camp for his return.
He had a bunion, a bony bump on his left foot that caused him to miss substantial practice time late last season, surgically removed in March.
“I just had to get something repaired,” Jones said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That was it. It was light. It wasn’t nothing.”
Jones has had two stress fractures surgeries on his right foot, raising concerns about this most recent surgery.
“I’m just so explosive,” Jones said. “Every year, it’s something with my feet. Hopefully, I’m glad, thank God, it hasn’t been anything with a knee or anything. But I’m an explosive player and my feet can’t really take it.”
Jones jogged off to the side while the team worked through an OTA (non-contact practice) and during the mandatory minicamp.
Despite being slowed by the injuries, Jones turned in another spectacular season with 83 catches for 1,409 yards and six touchdown catches.
In the playoffs, Jones recorded 19 catches for 334 yards and three touchdowns. He made a spectacular catch in the Super Bowl to move the Falcons to the 22-yard line with 4:40 to play.
Jones is ready to move forward.
“We have to work with this team now,” Jones said. “We lost some pieces from last year, but we also gained some pieces. We just have to gel again … let’s go one game at a time. If we get there, we get there.”
Jones, who starts his rehabilitation routine at 7 a.m. each morning, has been keeping up with the offense and believes the league’s top scoring attack will be dangerous again in 2017.
“We’re still out here,” Jones said. “Our offense is still potent.”
Jones has also been impressed with new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
“Sark has come right on in,” Jones said. “Sark is a really, really cool OC. He listens.”
Sarkisian has also said he has to find a way to get Jones more red zone touches, which makes him even cooler in Jones’ book.
The Falcons gave the hard-charging Jones all the time he needs to recover from surgery and other ailments.
Mohamed Sanu was a strong free agent pickup. He had a career-high 59 catches for 653 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Taylor Gabriel was slowed over the offseason by a lower leg strain after landing a $2.8 million deal. He also had the highest passer rating of any receiver on passes thrown to him in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.
The passer rating of 148.1 on balls thrown to Gabriel last season was significantly better than the second-best rating of 129.8 on passes to Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan. Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams had the third-highest, at 124.6.
Last season, Gabriel finished with 35 catches for 579 yards and six touchdowns, playing as the No. 3 receiver behind Jones and Sanu.
Andre Roberts was signed in free agency and is the favorite to replace returner Eric Weems, who signed with Tennessee in free agency. Undrafted rookie Deante Burton had an impressive offseason, but he’ll have to main that when they put on pads.
Here’s a look at the projected depth chart heading into training camp:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts, 1 Reggie Davis, 17 Marvin Hall
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 66 Kevin Graf, 79 Will Freeman
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Sean Harlow, 72 Cornelius Edison, 69 Marquis Lucas
C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 61 Travis Averill, 62 Cam Keizur
RG [71 Wes Schweitzer, 63 Ben Garland], 68 Trevor Robinson
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Daniel Brunskill, 75 Andreas Knappe
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins, 86 D.J. Tialavea, 85 Eric Saubert, 49 Darion Griswold
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 13 Devin Fuller, 15 Nick Williams, 16 Anthony Dable, 87 Deante Burton, 7 Josh Magee
FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 39 Tyler Renew
DE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takkarist McKinley, 96 Martin Ifedi
DT 92 Dontari Poe, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 74 Taniela Tupou
DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 95 Jack Crawford, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odom
SLB 59 DeVondre Campbell, 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 50 Brooks Reed, Jack Lynn
LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 52 Josh Keyes
WLB 36 Kemal Ishmael, 42 Duke Riley, 56 Jermaine Grace, 55 J’Terius Jones
CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 25 Akeem King, 39 Janor Jones, 38 Taylor Reynolds
NB 34 Brian Poole, 33 Blidi-Wreh-Wilson, 27 Damontae Kazee
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 32 Jalen Collins, 30 Deji Olatoye, 41 Quincy Mauger
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 35 Marcelis Branch
S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 48 Jordan Moore, 49 Deron Washington
K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 38 Brian Hill
PR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 18 Taylor Gabriel
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher