A NOTE ON STOPPING JULIO JONES
This is what I wrote in yesterday’s game preview:
Do the Bears have any hope of stopping Julio Jones? The answer is unequivocally no. The Falcons line up Jones everywhere and run him on as creative an array of routes as you’ll see designed for a premier wide receiver. He’ll run a go from one side, a slant from the other and a shallow cross from the slot on three consecutive plays. Will the Bears deploy Kyle Fuller on Jones for the entirety of the game? Doubtful. Jones is too good to isolate in man over the full sixty minutes. I’m having a hard time not envisioning a 10-catch, 140 yard performance.
I’ve thought about this paragraph for a day or so. On the heels of Tim Jennings referring to the defensive approach against Carolina as “vanilla” this is the Sunday for Marc Trestman and Mel Tucker to go Rocky Road…or Rum Raisin…or pick the ice cream flavor of your choice since they are all infinitely less boring than vanilla. How do I mean?
Julio Jones leads the league in catches (40), targets (T-1, 57), yards (552), first downs (28) and plays of 20+ yards (12). This is not a good wide receiver the Bears are facing Sunday. This is, as of this moment, with Calvin Johnson ailing, far and away the best wide receiver in the league.
Can you stop him? Probably not. Can you make his life miserable for sixty minutes and force Matt Ryan to look elsewhere? Absolutely. Remember, I am not an X’s and O’s football writer. There are plenty of people out there to read if that’s what you’re looking for. My belief continues to be football is a sport where coaches put players in positions to make plays and the ones who make them are the ones who are successful. I continue to argue scheme/play-calling is the most overrated aspect of the NFL.
Let me show you, in crude drawings, how I might approach Jones Sunday.
I have seen enough McCray. I am not putting him on the post.
The conventional wisdom of double-teaming a receiver would be to put the corner (Fuller) on Jones at the line of scrimmage and protect over the top with the safety (in this case Mundy). I’d go with a different approach. Mundy, whose ball skills have been surprisingly good, can serve a dual role on Jones’ inside shoulder. He can take the comfortable slant pattern away from Matt Ryan but also seamlessly transition to an outside linebacker role should the Falcons hands the ball off.
Fuller has no other responsibility besides Jones.
This looks like a regular old cover-2 look, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. The Bears need to use Tim Jennings physicality to derail Julio Jones’ intention. He is not – at that significant size and talent disadvantage – going to put Jones on the ground. But he CAN force Jones in one direction or the other and the free safety can then react to that action by shifting his intention SOLELY to Jones. In either case, Matt Ryan is going to need several seconds of protection to even find a window in which to throw a pass to Jones.
Note on this: I would not have Jennings release Jones. Derail his route, re-direct him…etc. but do not then settle into a space and hope the players behind you find Jones. Bump and run with him. This player warrants a full double team. Not understanding that will lead to peril.
Do these approaches to Jones beat the Falcons? Absolutely not. But they hamper and slow the most dynamic weapon on the Falcons offense. If the Bears are beaten by a slowed Roddy White, a go route Devin Hester or Steven Jackson on the ground, they can almost sit back and say we didn’t win our one-on-one battles and the better team won. If the Bears are beaten by a wide receiver who is currently dominating the sport, it is inexcusable.
We shall see how Mel Tucker and the defensive coaching staff approach Sunday.