A third of the 2021 NFL season has been decided, but this is the time when people settle into the narratives that they will hold throughout the season. Tennessee Titans fans have to stop thinking the Julio Jones trade was a bad one before it is too late.
It is no secret that the biggest concern for Julio Jones coming into the season was how well he would hold up over the course of a 17-game season.
So far Julio Jones has only played 43% of the offensive snaps, so fans aren’t pleased that he didn’t shut down this narrative immediately. Still, that doesn’t mean it was a bad trade.
Instead of looking at the time he spent on the sidelines, let’s take a look at what he has done when he has been on the field.
Two things Julio Jones is bringing to the Tennessee Titans
While Julio Jones isn’t going to have a season with 100+ receptions with the Titans, he is making every catch count. He is averaging 17.5 yards per reception and he has had two massive plays of 51 and 48 yards. Those are game-changing plays, but more about that later.
When you look at the Titans’ offense, they have struggled to find consistency. Week in and week out they deal with drops, sacks, poor play calling, or hair-pulling turnovers. Every week they get a little closer to putting it all together, but it helps that they have had explosive plays to carry them when things aren’t going smoothly.
The Tennessee Titans are tied for 8th in the NFL with 42 explosive plays thanks in large part to Derrick Henry. Only 16 of those explosive plays have been receptions. While Julio Jones has accounted for three of those 20+ yard receptions, where he has really thrived is in the intermediate part of the field.
9 of his 15 receptions have gone for 10+ yards and a 10th was a 4th down conversion in the middle of the field where he was focused more on securing the first down than yards after the catch.
These are the types of plays that force linebackers to drop deeper into coverage which then leads to more chances for Derrick Henry to rack up explosive plays on the ground.
The other thing that Julio Jones brings to the Titans is…well, wins. Specifically a win, and it was the win against the Seattle Seahawks.
Flashback to a month ago and remember where the Tennessee Titans were. They lost the home opener to the Arizona Cardinals and they had to go on the road to play a healthy Seattle Seahawks team in their home opener.
The Titans ended up winning that game in overtime, and that was a day when A.J. Brown had three drops and 0 yards after the catch. Without a heroic effort by Derrick Henry and Julio Jones, there is no way that the Titans would have been able to come back and they would have had to host Indianapolis with much less confidence.
So, what has Julio done for the Titans? Well, he has given them their two most explosive receptions of the season and without him, the Titans would probably be a 2-4 team with close losses to the Seahawks and the Bills.
Instead, he has made enough of a difference to help the team get to 4-2. It is frustrating when players get hurt, but don’t let that frustration cloud your analysis of a player. If and when the Tennessee Titans have Julio Jones and A.J. Brown on the field together at full health, they should be able to boost this offense from top-10 to top-5 in points per game.