Let’s be very clear up front on this. I already have seen plenty of signs that Atlanta rookie receiver Julio Jones is going to be a very good NFL player. I also think time will show us the Falcons made the right call when they traded up in the draft to get Jones.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me say something that may seem contrary to what I said above. The hamstring injury that will keep Jones out of Sunday’s game with the Carolina Panthers actually might be a blessing in disguise for the Falcons.
Again, a qualifier: I’m only talking about this in the context of a short-term basis. Like one game. Two, tops.
Given the current state of Atlanta’s offense, it might be a good thing to briefly subtract Jones from the lineup. Take him away and you basically have last year’s offense, at least at the skill positions. That offense worked quite nicely as the Falcons went 13-3.
They were a run-first team with Michael Turner, but Matt Ryan and Roddy White hooked up on some big plays. White led the league with 115 catches and there also were plenty of shorter passes to tight end Tony Gonzalez. Last year’s Falcons had a nice offensive rhythm. This year’s team hasn’t had that.
Maybe it’s time for coach Mike Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey to get a little refresher course. When something new isn’t quite clicking, sometimes it’s best to go back to what’s worked in the past.
For at least a game, or until Jones is ready to come back, the Falcons simply need to get back to what they were a year ago. It could help them in the short term. It also could help them in the long term. By taking a step back to last season, the Falcons can re-evaluate their offense. When Jones comes back, they can work him in naturally and let the new offense develop its own personality.
The Falcons lost their offensive identity by forcing the issue and trying to change too much all at once.