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Friday, September 20, 2013
Gonzalez eager for matchups vs. Dolphins

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Covering Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez one-on-one without help is what every linebacker dreads, and what the future Hall of Famer craves.

So as the Falcons prepare for the Dolphins this Sunday, you can understand why the prospect of Julio Jones drawing extra attention excites Gonzalez.

Matt Ryan & Tony Gonzalez
Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez are preparing for what the Falcons hope will be plenty of one-on-one matchups against the Dolphins in Week 3.
"They doubled up (Larry) Fitzgerald a lot, and you would probably think they’d do the same thing against Julio (Jones), which is going to create one-on-one matchups with other guys," Gonzalez said. "They blitz a lot, too, which creates one-on-one matchups. We have to go out there and know that this week we’re expecting that man-to-man coverage. Especially when they go to that blitz, you have to beat your one-on-one coverage. And we think we have the guys to be able to be successful at that."

Gonzalez addressed the topic while referencing how Miami defended explosive Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald in Week 4 of last season. Fitzgerald had eight receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown and was targeted 15 times as the Dolphins bracketed him, for the most part. Fellow Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts took advantage of the attention on Fitzgerald and finished with six catches for a career-high 118 yards and two touchdowns in Arizona’s 24-21 overtime win.

And that was with Kevin Kolb at quarterback.

Imagine what Matt Ryan might be able to do with his variety of weapons, provided he gets protection against a potent Dolphins defensive line led by Cameron Wake. Not to mention Gonzalez should win his one-on-ones, considering the Dolphins have surrendered 13 catches for 177 yards to starting tight ends through two games.

Jones, however, is certain to be the focus of Miami’s defensive game plan after posting career highs in both receptions (11) and receiving yards (182) in last week’s 31-24 win against St. Louis. His day included an 81-yard catch-and-run score. Jones was extremely effective in the screen game, too.

"That’s one thing you know Miami is probably going to make adjustments, especially with Julio catching all those screens," Gonzalez said. "They might have a plan for that, I’m pretty sure. That’s another trend around the NFL: You’ve seen them set up the run, the screen is taking the place of that run."

Speaking of the running game, an integral part will be missing Sunday with Steven Jackson already ruled out with a hamstring injury. He’ll be replaced by the elusive Jacquizz Rodgers and downhill runner Jason Snelling.

Besides losing Jackson for what looks like three weeks, the Falcons also lost defensive end Kroy Biermann (Achilles tear) and fullback Bradie Ewing (separated shoulder) to season-ending injuries and lost linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot) until at least Week 11. (Weatherspoon was placed on injured reserve with designation to return.)

This week, key players such as receiver Roddy White (high-ankle sprain), left tackle Sam Baker (knee/foot) and cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh) have all been held out of practice this week, although White returned on a limited basis Thursday. Even Jones (knee) was limited the past two days.

"Injuries are a part of the game," Gonzalez said. "It’s the NFL. Look across the league. That’s what happens. That’s part of the business, is staying healthy. And, unfortunately, we’re down a little bit right now.

"But at the same time, that’s why we have the backups that are going to come in and they’re going to do the job hopefully just as well as the starters would have. And that’s what’s expected of them. It’s a hard position for them to be in, but I think that they’re up to that challenge. The coaches are going to make adjustments. We’re going to be fine."