Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones reflected on the team’s 8-8 season before leaving the team’s facilities.
He believes the offense can be much improved in the second season under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
“As an offense, we just have to protect the ball better,” Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Kyle Shanahan just gave us a stat. We were like 32nd in the league turning the ball over and in the redzone we were like 28th or something like that. It was just more so us than anybody else.”
Jones turned in a record-setting season with 136 receptions, 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns.
On a 27-yard catch in the fourth quarter, Jones passed Jerry Rice for second all-time on the single season receiving yardage list (1,848, 1995).
Jones is now one of three players all-time to record 1,800-plus receiving yards in a single season and he is one of five Falcons players to record 1,800-plus yards from scrimmage in a single season (1,871).
Jones and Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown each finished the season with 136 receptions, which tied them for second on the NFL’s single season reception list. (Marvin Harrison, 143, 2002).
But moving forward, from quarterback Matt Ryan to rest of the unit, taking care of the ball will be the focus for next season.
“That’s the central theme of the program,” Jones said. “We are going to compete and everything, which we do. But it’s all about the ball. We just have to protect the ball more. Next year, we just have to focus on that and keep emphasing that every week-in and week-out. Ball security and in the red zone.”
Jones believes the improvement of the rushing attack contributed to his mega-season. The Falcons improved from 24th (93.6 yards per game) in the league to 18th (100.7).
“The running game is going to continue to keep getting better,” Jones said. “This was the first year that those guys were together. With the offensive line, you need that chemistry. We brought (Chris) Chester in, (Andy) Levitre and (Mike) Person. Those guys never played together before. It’s about that chemistry that you build with each other. Kind of know how that guy is going to block his weaknesses and his strengths. That just comes over a period of time of working with each other.”
Jones also reflected on his season.
“I feel like I had a pretty good year,” Jones said. “I feel like I can do better. The standards for myself are so much higher. I know what I put out there. I feel like this year, I missed a few passes. I could have done a lot of things better. It’s hard to play a perfect game in football and have a perfect season. I strive for that every year.”
Jones wants Falcons wide receiver Roddy White to return. White turned 34 during the season and his production dropped off dramatically from 80 catches in 2014 to 43 catches in 2014.
The Falcons have made a practice of cutting veteran players as salary cap casualties in the past.
“I think he’s going to be back,” Jones said. “There isn’t a question about whether if Roddy is going to be here or not. He’s a play maker. He’s been making big plays for us and he’s going to continue to make big plays.
“You can’t try to go get anybody off the street and feel like somebody has got talent, but if they haven’t been through those situations and been comfortable in those situations, they are not going to make those plays.
“Prime example is if you put a rookie in there, he can have all of the talent in the world, but he’s not used to making those plays in those situations. He’s going to drop balls. He’s not going to be at the right spots. Just the little things that come with experience.”
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