In the Super Bowl, wide receivers aren’t usually the most important players, but Julio Jones is not your typical wide receiver. Few can change the landscape of a game in an instant like Jones.
Julio is that guy - ask the Green Bay Packers. In fact, you can ask the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs as well. In the three games against two teams with elite secondaries, Jones dominated. Going against "shutdown" corners in Richard Sherman and Marcus Peters, Jones tallied 319 yards and three touchdowns. Given that he put up those numbers against defensive backfields with multiple Pro Bowlers, who's to say he can't do the same to the Patriots defense.
His dominance drives the Atlanta Falcons. As seen in several games this season, when Jones morphs into Super Saiyan mode, he is trouble for opposing teams. He catches (almost) everything in his vicinity. He makes spectacular plays and his ability to run routes with precision is jaw dropping. On top of that, he’s the ideal teammate.
If there was a wide receiver factory, teams would clone Jones being he's that great. To call him dominant is undervaluing what he does on the gridiron. With or without the ball, all eyes are on No.11, so it’s safe to say that he is the Falcons most important player in Super Bowl LI.
It’s easy to point at likely league MVP Matt Ryan and sack master Vic Beasley. Ryan enjoyed his best NFL season as a pro by throwing for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns and on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, Beasley led the NFL in sacks with 15.5.
Despite his teammates' individual ascensions atop of the NFL, Julio is in a different pantheon than them. New England understands the importance of Jones and what he means to the offense. If he isn’t clicking, the offense is like a Tesla—just a nice and fast car that’s easy on the eyes. If he is at the top of his game, the Falcons offense resembles a Lamborghini Veneno— one that can go from 0-60 in an instant.
Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler will assume some of the responsibilities, but it will be a collective effort. Butler, who has turned into an All-Pro after playing hero in Super Bowl XLIX tweeted about his dream matchup.
I wanna check julio jones...lol......real talk doe..
— Malcolm CB Butler (@Mac_BZ) December 23, 2012
Like some dreams, this one has come to be true. Over the past three years, Jones has averaged north of 100 yards per game, therefore the task will be easier said than done. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick has had success defending elite wide receivers, as they shut down Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins through two playoff games.
Nonetheless, they haven’t faced a wide out quite like Jones. To no surprise, the Patriots will use schemes that will place multiple defenders on Jones, but as great as he is, that doesn't matter.
Atlanta's offense has seen just about every coverage thrown at them, and Sunday will be no different. Jones has proven that multiple defenders can't shut him down, if they come close, it opens up the field for the rest of the offense.
As expected, Ryan will garner most of the attention, and rightfully so. But the guy he throws the ball to will carry a heavy burden as well—perhaps an even larger load than the all-everything quarterback.
While Matty Ice operates under center, Jones’ presence allows the Falcons to run arguably the best offense in the NFL. It’s imperative for Ryan to shake the first-time Super Bowl jitters, but as long as Julio is catches many of his passes, it can shift the landscape of the Super Bowl LI.
If in fact, that’s the case, the city of Atlanta will dance with joy as if Bad and Boujee is blaring out of the speakers.