Falcons’ Jones declines to take much credit for milestone

<p>
              Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones runs against the Cleveland Browns in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
            </p>

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Julio Jones seems to take pleasure in shutting down questions about his accomplishments.

It comes to him as naturally as catching a pass over the middle and stiff-arming a defender for extra yards.

Jones, the Atlanta Falcons‘ star wideout, last week became the quickest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 yards receiving. He accomplished the feat in 104 games, easily breaking Calvin Johnson’s mark of 115.

But Jones refuses to take much credit, pointing out that quarterback Matt Ryan, his teammate since the Falcons drafted him sixth overall in 2011, and many others played an equally big role.

“For me, I’m never an individual guy,” Jones said Thursday. “I couldn’t have done it by myself. It was just like Matt did a great job giving me opportunities, the offensive line. It’s like one of those things that I can’t go out there and play by myself — football is the ultimate team sport. I don’t know. I feel regular.”

Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, in his second season working with Jones, has a pretty good idea why his big playmaker causes so many matchup problems even as he’s constantly double-teamed. Linebackers often aren’t fast enough to cover him. Defensive backs are often too small to tackle the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder.

“It’s incredible how much ground he can cover,” Sarkisian said. “You can tell two guys to run a six-step route. He may get to 20 yards and another guy might run it at 14 or 15. He can just cover so much ground, and then his explosiveness to get in and out of breaks, for a man that size, is very impressive.”

Jones is more concerned with helping the Falcons (4-5) beat Dallas (4-5) to stay in the NFC playoff hunt. The Cowboys‘ secondary has only two interceptions but is still a threat with cornerbacks Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and safeties Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods having combined for 22 pass breakups.

“Cover-three team, mix in a little man, and they do have cover-two in there,” Jones said. “But who knows how they’re going to play us? They’re going to be who they are, and we can probably expect them to come in with one-high (safety).”

In last week’s loss at Cleveland, the Falcons couldn’t answer quickly enough when they trailed by 18 points midway through the third quarter. Knowing Atlanta was no longer a threat to run the ball, the Browns dropped back in coverage and kept everything in front of them.

Jones wants the Falcons to establish the run early and maintain it throughout the game. Ryan needs the threat of play-action to keep the linebackers up and let his receivers get open for big gains.

“Not taking anything away from Cleveland, but there were some opportunities that we’ve got to take advantage of,” Jones said. “There are always things out there that you miss on the field, but that’s more so on us. We’ve made the corrections.”

Notes: Thursday marked the first day that K Matt Bryant was listed as a full participant in practice since Week 6. Bryant, the career franchise scoring leader, has been sidelined with a sore hamstring. If he is able to play, the Falcons might release Giorgio Tavecchio to add depth at other positions. … MLB Deion Jones, returning from a foot injury that’s sidelined him since Week 1, was a limited participant for the second straight day. … Also limited were WR Mohamed Sanu (hip), S Damontae Kazee (shoulder), DE Derrick Shelby (groin), LBs De’Vondre Campbell (calf) and Bruce Carter (knee).