By Joel Deering
Last night the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons kicked off the 2018 NFL season. The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles came out on top with an 18-12 victory over the Falcons. Many expected the Eagles to win this game. After all, they do have one of the best offensive lines, defensive lines, etc. They are the defending champions, but that’s not the real reason why they won the game.
For being the defending champions, the Eagles actually played very poorly. It appeared as though they would end up losing their opening game, but they got help from the Falcons, who can’t seem to fix one of their biggest problems.
Atlanta has a Julio Jones problem. When I say they have a Julio Jones problem, I’m not talking about Jones as a player. Julio Jones is one of the best receivers in the NFL. In last night’s game he caught 10 passes for 169 yards. He should have had one more catch, but for whatever reason it wasn’t considered a catch. Still not sure what a catch is. Anyway, 10 passes for 169 yards is something you’ll take from your top receiver any day, but there’s one key stat Julio Jones didn’t get against the Eagles. No touchdown catches.
Matt Ryan led his team into the red zone several times in last night’s game. They scored a TD on a Tevin Coleman run, but outside of that score, the red zone offense was terrible. When you’re in the red zone, you typically want to get the ball to your best receiver. Well that actually turned out to be a mistake for the Falcons last night. Several times I saw Matt Ryan try to force the ball to Julio Jones in the red zone for a TD. What was the result? No TD.
If Julio Jones is open, by all means through him the ball, but he wasn’t always open. A lot of the time Jones was doubled covered, yet Matt Ryan threw him the ball anyway. According to ESPN Stats and Info, QB Matt Ryan is 1-of-20 when targeting Julio Jones in the end zone over the last two seasons. That’s unacceptable.
This stat, along with what I saw in last night’s game, tells me there’s not a lot of trust in the other receivers. Too much trust in Julio Jones and not enough trust in the other guys is the problem. If Julio Jones is double covered, Matt Ryan can’t just throw him the ball. This offense needs to find a way to get someone else open. If they really want to get Julio the ball, they need to find a way to get him open. They have to get creative. Move Julio around, or try a trick play. If they don’t, things will be the exact same.
Many people have big expectations for the Atlanta Falcons this season. Super Bowl LIII is being played in Atlanta, and many expect the Falcons to be playing in that Super Bowl, becoming the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. I can tell you right now, that’s not happening if the Falcons can’t get this red zone problem fixed. Head Coach Dan Quinn and QB Matt Ryan need to figure out a way to change this, like right now.
Starting 0-1 by no means takes them out of the playoff picture, but Atlanta has to play the Panthers, Saints, and Steelers in three of their next four games. If they can’t figure out a way to score more touchdowns in the red zone, it’s going to be very tough to win those games. Later in the season, the Falcons play the Packers, Saints, Panthers, and a few other potentially good teams. They can’t wait until late in the season to get their red zone offense going. By that time it will be too late. Their red zone offense has to change right now for them to have a serious chance at making it to Super Bowl LIII.