While NFL fans may shift their attention back to the Aaron Rodgers saga with the Green Bay Packers as soon as Tuesday when Rodgers is expected to skip the team's mandatory minicamp, the league is still buzzing about the Tennessee Titans landing future Hall of Fame receiver Julio Jones from the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday and not even surrendering a first-round pick for him. SportsLine oddsmakers have determined an average of Jones season totals from a variety of sportsbooks, and he is set with Over/Under numbers of 85 catches, 1,100 yards and seven receiving scores for the new 17-game slate.
Over his 10 seasons with the Falcons, in which Jones was named a Pro Bowler seven times, All-Pro five times and a member of the NFL's 2010s All-Decade Team, Jones averaged 84.8 catches, 1290 yards and six touchdowns over 16 games – for whatever reason, he was never a huge TD guy. Jones' career high is only 10 and that was in his second season. Otherwise, no years with more than eight. He was limited to five games in 2013 and nine last year, and he had a few other seasons where he missed a couple.
Since 2017, the only player with more receiving yards than Jones is the Cardinals' DeAndre Hopkins, although he got most of his yardage while with the Texans. However, Jones ranks just 31st in receiving scores over that span, including less than the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Robby Anderson, Nelson Agholor and tight ends Eric Ebron and Jimmy Graham. None of those guys are going to the Hall of Fame – maybe Graham will be Canton-bound eventually.
Tennessee now has arguably the best 1-2 punch at receiver in AJ Brown and Jones – the Titans haven't had two 1,000-yard receivers in the same year since Derrick Mason and Drew Bennett in 2004. They almost did last year, but the departed Corey Davis finished 16 yards shy of 1,000.
The presence of Brown could be both a positive and negative regarding Jones' 2021 season totals. Good in that teams won't be double-teaming Jones but bad because Brown is pretty clearly Ryan Tannehill's top guy.
There's also the Derrick Henry factor. The Titans ranked second in the NFL with 521 rushing attempts last year and 10th in 2019 with 445 rushing attempts because of Henry, the two-time rushing king. That means a lot fewer targets than Jones is accustomed to in Atlanta.
Then again, Henry's presence also should benefit Jones as the Titans faced eight defenders in the box on 23.1 percent of their snaps last season, more than any other team in the NFL. By comparison, the Falcons faced eight in the box just 12.5 percent of the time. If teams continue to gear up on stopping Henry, that means single coverage for Jones … but also Brown.
One major question mark for the Tennessee offense is new coordinator Todd Downing, who replaces new Falcons coach Arthur Smith after spending each of the past two seasons as Tennessee's tight ends coach. No one knows what to expect from Downing yet.
With Jones' totals set at 85 catches, 1,100 yards and seven scores, that's essentially the season Houston's Brandin Cooks had in 2020: 81 catches, 1,150 yards and six TDs in 15 games (missed one).
Jones finished last year with 51 catches for 771 yards and three scores over nine games. Transcribe those numbers to a full season and now 17 regular-season games, and Jones catches 96 passes for 1,456 yards and 5.7 TDs in 2021.
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