BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots have just under two weeks to get ready for their matchup with the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, and much of that time will be used trying to figure out how to contain All Pro receiver Julio Jones.
The 6-foot-3 receiver is one of the best in the business, finishing second in the NFL with 1,409 receiving yards during the regular season. He has 15 receptions for 247 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs, including a nine-catch, 180-yard and two touchdown game against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship.
He’s just one part of Atlanta’s top-ranked offense, led by quarterback and likely NFL MVP Matt Ryan with Mohamed Sanu (653 yards, four touchdowns) and Taylor Gabriel (six touchdowns) also causing headaches for opposing secondaries. So who will have the tough task of slowing down such an offensive force like Jones? The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Tuesday morning to break it down, and said it may not be Malcolm Butler or Logan Ryan.
“[The Patriots] have two weeks to game plan for a situation where they know that Matt Ryan is going to go after their weak link. Much like, the best comparison in recent history is the way Aaron Rodgers tried to do it in 2014 to the Patriots. They have a choice to make: Do you want to use your marquee guys against Julio Jones, whether it’s Malcolm Butler or Logan Ryan, or do you want to say, you’re devoting a safety to Julio Jones’ side of the field anyways, why use two of your best players? Maybe put Eric Rowe on Julio Jones because he is a longer guy and had some success, in very limited work, against A.J. Green in Week 6. So maybe use Eric Rowe and Devin McCourty against Jones and go about it that way,” said Howe.
“That’s one of the more fascinating matchup situations these teams have to prepare for. Matt Ryan is really good at picking apart the weak link of the secondary, whether it’s throwing the thing on check downs over the middle to running backs, which he’s been really good at, or Kyle Shanahan devising a route scheme that is designed to getting it to Sanu or Gabriel, just creating situations where you can pick on that weak spot,” added Howe. “That’s something the Patriots have to be cognizant of in the next two weeks.”
Howe also touched on the Falcons D and how it shares similarities to the Seattle Seahawks, and the “hard-hitting” questions Roger Goodell will get during Super Bowl week: