Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is out for the season with a fractured foot that is going to require surgery. Jones fractured the foot in a loss to the jets on Oct. 7.
It was revealed on Tues., Oct. 8 that his foot was fractured, but Jones wanted to get a second look at it before calling for surgery. Atlanta head coach Mike Smith revealed that he would have surgery on Oct. 13, and the surgery turned out successful.
Losing Julio Jones is a big loss to the Falcons, who were 1-4 before he got injured. Jones led the NFL in receptions (42) and yards per game (116.0) before the injury. Their other star receiver Roddy White is going to miss some time, also, with a high ankle sprain and some hamstring issues.
The Falcons, who were heavy playoff favorites, seem to be spiraling downward and are now 2-5 as of week 8. After finishing 13-3 in 2012, the Falcons have even bigger expectations to fill in 2013, but they have fallen short so far.
Bringing in Stephen Jackson via free agency from the Rams was supposed to jumpstart the running game that has been mediocre in the past. So far, though, they have nothing to show for it, since Jackson missed so much time due to an injury in week two. Atlanta is dead last in rushing offense efficiency with only 437 total rushing yards; Atlanta only averages 62.7 rushing yards per game which is also dead last in the NFL. Jackson’s first game back in week eight against the Cardinals was disappointing with only eleven carries for six yards. The Falcons only rushed the ball fourteen times with a combined 27 team rushing yards against the cardinals. Even with this problem, Matt Ryan threw four interceptions, which certainly fueled the flame in the loss.
No team is going to win many games with such little contributions from the running game. Rushing seems to be one of the many problems on offense, in addition to a lackluster offensive line that allowed Ryan to be hit eleven times by the Cardinals. The offensive line is trending upward, compared to the start of the season, but it still remains a problem.
Defense also seems to be a problem because the pass rush appears to be almost nonexistent. Like the offensive line, the defense was a huge problem early in the season, but it seems to be looking up. The Falcons have a combined 17 sacks, which is good for being twenty second in the league. Osi Umenyiora was brought in to be a key pass rusher in this defense, but he has been up and down this season. So far, he has four sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception through seven games; we should see improvement as the season goes on.
Ironically, the one thing that is not hurting them is receiver play. They are tenth in the league in receiving offense efficiency, even with Julio Jones and Roddy White injured. In week seven, Harry Douglas stepped up with seven catches for 149-yards and one TD. Of course, do not forget about Tony Gonzalez, who can be deadly on any given night. Look for the Falcons to stay in games through the air, if their offensive line continues to improve.
If the Falcons want to catch New Orleans at the top of the NFC South, it is going to be a long ride without Julio Jones; however, it can be done. With their top 10 quarterback and good coaching, the playoffs are not by any means out of reach. Chasing the Saints will be a stretch, but they always have a wild card to fall back on. This team has underperformed, but do not count them out just yet.Guest Writer: Daniel Hunt