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Atlanta Falcons

Sarkisian wants to unleash Julio in red zone

I see that Atlanta’s new offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, wants to use Julio Jones more in the red zone. Sounds promising enough. Jones catches tons of passes every year but never seems to score quite enough touchdowns.

Two years ago, Jones caught 136 passes but somehow managed to catch only 8 TDs. How is that even possible?

Sarkisian, in an article penned by ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, says they need to be sure Jones isn’t underused in the red zone.

"When you have a player like Julio, it's making sure we maximize his opportunities because there is so much double-coverage, there are so many unique coverages that roll his way that when we don't get that, let's make sure he's one of the primary receivers on that play because it is such a tough matchup for anybody one on one," Sarkisian says.

While it’s easy to talk about such ideas in the offseason, however, it’s harder to implement successful changes in the real games.

Bottom line is that while Jones is a great receiver, he’s never been particularly good around the goal line, when the field gets smaller. He’s more effective when he’s able to build up to top speed and has space to work with.

We track all plays inside the 10 yard – the more meaningful half of the red zone. Jones in the last three years has seen 24 passes inside the 10, resulting in 11 catches and 7 TDs. Those are modest numbers; most receivers of his ilk have been more effective in that part of the field.

Over the last three years, 34 players have seen at least 20 targets inside the 10. Only five of those players have scored on a lower percentage of their targets.

On the chart, “TD” includes both touchdowns and 2-point conversions. With Mike Evans, for example, he caught 12 touchdowns and two 2-point conversions.

While Sarkisian says he would like to use Jones more, I don’t see any reason to believe Jones is now going to be more effective in that area. And if they can’t do a better job of getting Jones open and scoring touchdowns, they’ll probably revert to what was working pretty well last year – with Jones serving as more of a decoy to get secondary, lesser receivers open.

• Julius Thomas, Den.-Jac.221464%1359%
Mike Evans, T.B.241458%12+258%
• Rob Gronkowski, N.E.221464%1255%
Allen Robinson, Jac.301757%14+253%
Odell Beckham Jr., NYG271452%1452%
Randall Cobb, G.B.362467%17+150%
• Antonio Gates, S.D.291448%1448%
• Martellus Bennett, Chi.-N.E.211257%8+248%
• Delanie Walker, Tenn.261662%11+146%
• Jordan Reed, Wash.261662%1246%
Golden Tate, Det.241875%9+142%
Michael Crabtree, S.F.-Oak.221150%8+141%
Jordy Nelson, G.B.321856%1341%
• Travis Kelce, K.C.201050%5+340%
Eric Decker, NYJ281554%1139%
Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.281450%1139%
• Kyle Rudolph, Minn.231148%939%
Antonio Brown, Pitt.462554%15+339%
Jarvis Landry, Mia.271763%8+237%
Davante Adams, G.B.251560%7+236%
Doug Baldwin, Sea.201155%735%
Emmanuel Sanders, Den.291966%9+134%
Andre Johnson, Ind.-Ten.211048%733%
Brandon Marshall, Chi.-NYJ281243%932%
• Greg Olsen, Car.221150%6+132%
T.Y. Hilton, Ind.221255%6+132%
Dez Bryant, Dall.26831%831%
Julian Edelman, N.E.271244%7+130%
Julio Jones, Atl.241146%729%
Alshon Jeffery, Chi.28932%829%
Demaryius Thomas, Den.391641%9+228%
Pierre Garcon, Wash.24833%625%
Anquan Boldin, S.F.-Det.23939%522%
Jermaine Kearse, Sea.20210%210%

—Ian Allan

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