Falcons' Julio Jones expecting more deep ball targets

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Julio Jones had a step on cornerback Jalen Collins, maybe even a couple.

It looked to be an easy, long completion down the left sideline between Jones and quarterback Matt Ryan on Day 2 of Atlanta Falcons minicamp. But the ball sailed beyond Jones' reach.

What happened?

"We've just got to be on the same page," Jones said. "Me and Matt had a deep ball today and we did not connect. But that's why we've got to talk about having that communication, not having gray areas. We've got to know, in those situations, like where he's going to throw. And my mindset is, 'OK, he's going to put the ball here. This is my mindset. This is my approach. This is where I'm going to come off the line to go get the ball, the deep ball.'

"Sometimes, it might be back shoulder. Sometimes it's not. You can't predetermine it. And those are just little things we have to communicate on and keep working. But overall, we're doing a great job. We really don't miss those no more. And we're going to take a lot more chances and shots down the field. ... We've got Aldrick Robinson on the team, and he's another deep-ball threat for us -- great hands, can go get the ball."

Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan fully anticipates taking more deep shots this coming season, particularly with a dynamic deep threat such as Jones to target. Last season, Jones averaged 10.33 air yards per target, which ranked 47th in the league. Of course, he made the most of those targets with a league-leading 1,871 receiving yards, including 642 yards after the catch. But a few more deep balls might have put Jones over the 2,000-yard mark. He was targeted 15 times on throws of 25-plus air yards down the field and had six receptions for 270 yards and one touchdown -- a 70-yard score on a ball Ryan threw 52 yards against Carolina.

"We don't look at numbers because you look at defenses," Shanahan said of deep shots. "Yeah, we didn't take every [deep ball] opportunity we should have. There's a lot of options on them. Sometimes, when you do have them, everything's got to be in line. You have to have the protection. You have to make sure the safety is not going over. You have to make sure the receiver gets off the bump.

"Usually, explosive plays have never been an issue. I know we didn't get as many last year as we wanted to. ... We actually had a good amount of explosive plays. We didn't have a good amount of explosive touchdowns. Our guy who can do it the most, Julio, he got a bunch at the beginning of the year, but it's a little harder to get explosive plays when there's always a second guy over the top of you. That's why we had to move him and recreate some. I'm hoping other guys can do it, too."

The additions of wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and tight end Austin Hooper, plus the continued development of Justin Hardy and the possible contribution of Robinson, could help keep added defensive attention off Jones. Shanahan actually called a fade route for Robinson on Wednesday, though it didn't result in a score.

"The more guys you have, the more players you have out there, the more guys there are to take advantage," Shanahan said.

As for Ryan, he should have more time in the pocket to throw those deep passes with three-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in front of him. Last season, Ryan completed just 6 of 22 passes for 270 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions on balls thrown 25-plus air yards down the field. All six completions were to Jones.

Here are more notes from Day 2 of camp:

  • Cornerback C.J. Goodwin, a converted wide receiver, picked off Matt Schaub during 11-on-11 drills. It was Goodwin's second consecutive day with an interception.

  • The rookies continued to get plenty of reps with safety Keanu Neal and linebackers Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell working with the first-team defense and right guard Wes Schweitzer working with the first-team offense. Hooper got good work in the red zone and even caught a pass and ran it in for a score.

  • There was a lot of rotating along the defensive line with Courtney Upshaw getting a look and others such as Malliciah Goodman, Joey Mbu and Brandon Williams seeing time in the rotation, too.

  • Punter Matt Bosher was excused from practice for personal reasons, meaning Ryan had to handle the holding duties on field goals.

  • Return man Devin Hester (toe), wide receiver Devin Fuller (hamstring) and offensive lineman James Stone (ACL) remained sidelined with injuries. Coach Dan Quinn said the team is being extra cautious with Fuller.

  • The Falcons brought in wide receiver Donatella Lockett for a tryout and he wore the No. 84 jersey last worn by Roddy White, the franchise's all-time leading receiver who was released in March.