NFL training camp is finally underway and there are moves, particularly one from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that are very intriguing and may change how we view those teams in the future. Julio Jones, formerly of the Falcons and Titans, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a one-year contract. He will now be joining Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as one of the best wide receiver trios in the NFL.
You might be thinking that Jones isn’t the same receiver as he once was. While you may be right, I’m here to tell you — with the help of some film from a game against the Seattle Seahawks — that he still has some left in the tank. I’ve compiled some tape from last year that shows just how good Julio Jones was before he got hurt and battled injury throughout most of the season, and that he still can be very good in a wide receiver three or four role on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Attacking the Football
This first clip of Jones truly demonstrates that he can still attack the football at a high level. He’s on the bottom of the screen and, as the defensive back is coming off, he is prepping to run an in-breaking route. Ryan Tannehill looks his way the entire time. Jones makes a really solid break towards the ball, goes up and high-points the football, and makes a great catch. His ability to make hands-catches is rare, and Jones showed that he still has some left in the tank.
Speed and Big-Play Potential
You might not think of Julio Jones’ speed as something that can still impress this late in his career and as something he may have lost when he went to the Tennessee Titans. However, in spurts it really is still there, and here’s a prime example of it.
On this deep ball Jones is on the top of the screen. The defensive back is playing off so Jones attacks him outside stepping in and doing a little stutter step. This throws the defensive back’s footing off just enough that Jones is able to speed past him, go over the top, and catch this great throw from Ryan Tannehill. It really is that footwork right before that makes this play possible.
Jones’ route-running is really still some of the best in the league, and he has proven that he can still make deep catches such as this one. I expect the volume of those to only improve as he joins Tom Brady.
A Savvy Veteran
Here’s an example of a crossing route, which Tom Brady really loves to throw. In this instance, Tennessee runs a play-action and Jones comes from the top of the screen down. What he does really well is attack the empty spots on the field, rather than just running the route the way that it’s written down in the playbook.
He attacks the empty part of the field and comes back to attack the football as soon as Ryan Tannehill makes this throw. This could have easily been batted down or incomplete, but he comes back and attacks the football. Julio Jones’ ball skills are still some of the best in the league, and he’ll have ample opportunity to show that with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Yards After the Catch
On this play we see more of Julio Jones’ running ability and how it really was still there before he went down with the injury that sidelined him several weeks. He’s really good at not only attacking the football, but attacking defensive backs and using his footwork to gain leverage.
Here he does that exact thing. It’s really a simple route, but because he didn’t give up his intentions, the defensive back has no idea where he’s going. When he makes this simple cut in it almost makes the defensive back drop to the floor. Jones is able to catch the ball in space and attacks the open grass for a big gain.
Here is another example, and really the best combination of Julio Jones not only attacking space on the field, but also attacking the football when it comes his way. From the snap, he just goes straight to his spot and makes a quick little move on the defender.
Ryan Tannehill puts this ball up while getting hit and Julio Jones, aware of the sideline, goes up and high points it. He makes a perfect catch and is somehow able to tap both feet in bounds and get a touchdown. This play was later overturned, but it certainly looks like he got in.
This is vintage Julio Jones if I’ve ever seen it, and if he can bring some of these plays to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he’s healthy, they’re going to be an absolutely dangerous team.
Jones’ quick feet are what’s going to keep him relevant in this game for a while — and what has done so to this point. Here, it’s really a simple route, but it puts the defensive back in a blender. Jones spins back towards the football and goes up to make a play. His foot speed is still off the charts when healthy, and he can still teach defensive backs a lesson.
The Bottom Line on Julio Jones and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This game really showed some of the vintage Julio Jones that still remains in 2022. He had 133 yards receiving and dominated just about anybody that was put in front of him. However, teams with wide receiver needs, such as the Ravens and Packers left him for Brady and the Bucs. it’s only a matter of time before they come to regret this and we see the Brady-Jones connection in action.
Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared as a video on Tyler’s YouTube channel. Head over there to check out the full video!