Can Jones count on a big game vs. Bucs?

by Gary Shelton on December 15, 2017 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Julio Jones was electric agains the Bucs last time./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Julio Jones (11) was electric against the Bucs last time./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Friday, 3 a.m.

You envision Julio Jones. If you are a defensive back for the Tampa Bay Bucs, you probably envision his heels and elbows, and his back growing smaller as he runs away from you and toward the goal line.

You imagine Jones, and you imagine him smiling. This week, Jones gets another shot at the Tampa Bay Bucs, a team he torched for 12 catches and 253 yards.

He zig-zagged through the Bucs' secondary as if they were slalom poles, dodging and darting and leaving burn marks

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wherever he went. And now, he has another shot, and you imagine that Jones must amuse himself with visions of Bucs' cornerbacks trying to guard him again.

Odd. After the last game, Jones talked about how basic the Bucs' coverage was as it chased him. The Bucs, meanwhile, talked of using 14-15 different coverages on him. Of course, coverage can be difficult to identify when you're blurring past it.

"Obviously what we did to try to stop Julio last game didn’t work too well," said Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter. "We have to try to come up with some other things to try to stop him. But as you said, they have other playmakers. Julio has had three games like that, that I know of, since I’ve been following him. It’s not like he does that every single week, or he’d be the single-greatest player of all time. Even in the two games since ours, (he hasn’t put up those type of numbers). But he is one of the best receivers in the league. You always have to honor him, but they’ve got other guys.”

History may be a bit on the Bucs' side, of course. Throughout the history of the NFL, a lot of receivers have charred their opponents for big yardage. But few players have done it twice. Who knows? Maybe they get worn down doing it once.

For instance, the Bucs aren't the first team that Jones has burned. Against Carolina in 2016, he had 12 catches for 300 yards. But when the teams met again, he had a mortal four catches for 60 yards.

In 1962, Del Shofner of the Giants had 11 catches for 269 yards against the Redskins. In the rematch,  he had five for 125, a good but not quite spectacular game.

It happens the other way, too. In 2012, Calvin Johnson had an ordinary game against the Packers with four catches for 49 yards. But in the rematch, he had 11 catches for 244 yards.

Then there was the mighty Flipper Anderson of the Rams. In 1989, Anderson had two catches for 49 yards in a loss to the Saints. But in the rematch, Anderson had a record 336 yards and led a victory against the same Saints.

In other words, every game has its own personality and its own results.

"We don’t want to run the things we ran last time," said defensive coordinator Mike Smith. "That’s for sure. We didn’t do a good job in our preparation or our execution. He is an outstanding player and you’ve got to put enough resources out there where you can try to slow him down, but at the same time you can’t do so much that you are going to put the rest of the defense in jeopardy. Each game has its own little nuances that you go through, but I can assure you this – we looked very hard at what we did last time and we probably won’t be doing that.”

Will it matter? Jones has played against the Bucs 11 times, and he's had a pretty good time of it. Against Tampa Bay, Jones has 80 catches for 1,359 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"We can’t let 11 (Jones) do what he did last time," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. "I didn’t even realize how many yards he had until like the next day, honestly. I was walking through the training room, they put it on TV and I’m like, ‘I didn’t realize he did that.’ We definitely can’t let him have the day he had last time."

The Bucs are home against the Falcons on Monday with an 8:30 p.m. kickoff.


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