FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The statistics indicate that the Atlanta Falcons aren't getting Julio Jones as involved as he should be, with one touchdown on 76 targets -- including just nine targets in the red zone -- through nine games, as pointed out by ESPN Stats & Information research.
The All-Pro wide receiver, however, continues to be a dominating force, even without reaching the end zone. Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian made that clear when assessing Jones' involvement in scoring opportunities.
"Well, again, you want to maximize your opportunities as a team when you get in the red area, and we've had games where we've been really good in the red zone," Sarkisian said. "Last week (against the Dallas Cowboys) was one of those games, when we executed the way we wanted to and did the things we wanted to. Couple missed [opportunities]. We've had other games where we weren't so good.
"I think the reality of it is you game plan, you try to put your players in the best position to be successful. Obviously, Julio is that guy for us. And when the defense presents those opportunities, you want to take advantage of them."
The opportunity presented itself late in the fourth quarter in a Week 7 loss to the New England Patriots when Jones ripped the ball out of cornerback Malcolm Butler's hand for a 1-yard score. Another defender was close in the vicinity, but it wouldn't have mattered. In that game, Jones had a season-high four red zone targets, with two catches.
But Jones also hasn't had a red zone target in five of nine games -- against Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Miami, and Carolina. Matt Ryan threw 18 red zone passes in those games, although just one against the Dolphins and two against the Bears.
"A, we haven't gotten the best look for those [opportunities], and No. 2, we haven't take as good as advantage of them as I would like," Sarkisian said of going to Jones. "We keep striving for it, we keep grinding for it. But I do know this: The attention he gets makes life a lot easier for a lot of the other guys, and I think we're seeing the benefits of that."
Just last week, Jones was lined up in the slot and had a defender cheating his way in the red zone, and that defender could have sunk back and affected a crossing Justin Hardy, who scored 3-yard touchdown.
We'll see what opportunities open up Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks, who will be without All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman (Achilles) to contend with Jones. It would make sense for Jones to get a lot of opportunities against a depleted secondary, which won't have hard-hitting strong safety Kam Chancellor (neck), either.
Sarkisian sized up the Seahawks playing without Sherman in relation to defending Jones.
"Well, Richard's a heck of a player, a great competitor," Sarkisian said of Sherman. "Really a piece of the heart and soul of that defense. ... They've got some tremendous players still on that defense. But Richard was a real part of the heart and soul. And obviously, what he was able to do on the outside and their style of play of covering guys and almost eliminating half the field.
"Feel for him. Want him to get healthy. Want him to get better. But you know, we've got to go play the game. This time of the year in the NFL, everybody's battling with different things from an injury standpoint. So you go play the game and go put your best foot forward to go win."
And speaking of putting your best foot forward, Jones appears to be even healthier now, after being limited some by an ankle injury. He hasn't missed a game this season, despite battling ankle, back, and hip flexor injuries.