Collinsworth perplexed by Falcons’ inability to involve Jones in red zone

Analyst Cris Collingsworth (right) said: “If you can explain to me why Julio Jones hasn’t scored more touchdowns, I wish you would.”
Analyst Cris Collingsworth (right) said: “If you can explain to me why Julio Jones hasn’t scored more touchdowns, I wish you would.”

NBC football analyst Cris Collinsworth is in the group that’s perplexed by the Falcons’ red-zone problems and their inability to force-feed All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones.

Collinsworth, Al Michaels and Michele Tafoya will work the Falcons’ opener against the Eagles at 8:20 p.m. on Thursday to kickoff the NFL season.

“If you can explain to me why Julio Jones hasn’t scored more touchdowns, I wish you would,” Collinsworth said when asked about the situation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on a conference call on Wednesday. “I can’t answer that question. I mean, you would think that guy would be the greatest red zone receiver in the history of mankind.”

Jones caught only 6 of 22 passes (27 percent) thrown to him inside the 20-yard line for one touchdown in 2017. By comparison, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown caught 13 of 23 (56.5 percent) of his passes in the red zone for six touchdowns.

Jones, who also had seven drops, finished with 1,444 yards and three touchdowns.

“Now, I know he gets a lot of attention, it creates a lot of opportunity for (Mohamed) Sanu and other guys, but it’s never made any sense,” said Collinsworth, who starred for the Bengals from 1981-88 after playing at Florida. “It’s just never made any sense to me, either. I just can’t explain that one. I have no idea.”

The Atlanta Falcons open the season against Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (Sept. 6 @ 8:20 p.m., NBC). Nine games in the 2018 regular season will feature a rematch from the 2017 postseason. The Falcons lost to the Eagles in last season's conference Divisional Round. Thursday night's season opener features a matchup of the past two NFC representatives in the Super Bowl. The Eagles have won their past two openers and six of their past seven. Matt Ryan's 448 passing yards and 3 TDs against New Orle

Collinsworth is excited about the Falcons’ defense.

“Defensively, it’ll be good to see them back with Deion Jones,” Collinsworth said. “They obviously missed him greatly watching that game the other day (exhibition against the Jaguars). He’s that sideline-to-sideline presence. Although I will say, I thought from a sure, physical presence, it was fun to watch him because it was almost like they were two different teams (from the exhibition game  against the Chiefs).”

Collinsworth likes the Falcons defensive line rotation.

“Jack Crawford and Terrell McClain coming over are those sort of run-stuffing guys along with Derrick Shelby, and so they’ve got that sort of run-stopping, Brooks Reed helps the unit, and then you’ve got the pass rushers, right. ... So a little bit like Philadelphia last year, these guys are going to be incredibly fresh,” Collinsworth said. “When you get Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett and some of these guys that can really get after the quarterback, like Takk McKinley. (Because of the rotation) they don’t have to play 60 downs.”

There are some concerns about the defense. With the lost of massive defensive tackle Dontari Poe, the run defense may be an issue.

“I still get a little nervous watching them stop the run,” Collinsworth said. “You know, I just — that’s one for me, this is a team that we know they can run the ball, and I think they’re just going to have to make sure they can stop the run.”

Collinsworth has already deeply prepared for the game. He wants to see the Falcons get reserve defensive back Damontae Kazee on the field.

“The one guy that I don’t know how they’re going to get (on) the field, and I know he’s had some penalties and all that stuff, but that Damontae Kazee, he’s a headache waiting to happen,” Collinsworth said. “That is a dynamic player, and we all know Keanu Neal and those guys back there, but if they start getting stuck on trying to stop the run, Kazee is a force. That dude is a hitter.”

   

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