It is not a hot take that Julio Jones has been underwhelming this year for the Tennessee Titans.
Coming into the season, like many Titans faithful, I allowed myself to envision an electrifying offense that would be pounding defenses at the line with Derrick Henry while also dismantling secondaries with the tandem of AJ Brown and Julio Jones.
The phrase on everyone’s mind was “pick your poison” and it looked like the Titans were ready to remind everyone just how good this offense could be.
Unfortunately, injuries, COVID, and play style have diminished those preseason fantasies into a sobering reminder that football is a team sport.
Still, despite missing stars on offense for stretches this season, the Tennessee Titans have secured the top seed in the AFC. But, the question remains, what should Titans fans expect from the future Hall of Famer in the playoffs?
Well, the short answer: A lot.
Can Julio Jones live up to Tennessee Titans expectations?
The regular season has been forgettable for Julio Jones, but the regular season is not the same as the playoffs.
The mentality is completely different on every level of the game. It is do-or-die for every team in every game and in the season finale against Houston, Jones showed a glimpse of what the passing game could look like with two healthy star wide receivers.
Four Titans were tied for the team lead with four receptions until Julio Jones caught his fifth on the game-winning touchdown which was his first touchdown catch of the season.
It could have been an even bigger day because on one of his nine targets there was a notable incompletion on a deep ball from Ryan Tannehill where he just overthrew Julio despite Jones having a step on the defensive back.
Still, Sunday’s performance was a welcome sight for Titans fans. Jones has struggled with a hamstring injury for a large portion of the regular season that has limited him and reduced his involvement in the offense.
However, that may not necessarily be the case in the playoffs. As Todd Downing and Mike Vrabel plan on a game-by-game basis, we may see more plays designed specifically for a healthy Jones.
In yesterday’s game, he looked sharp, fast, and physical. More importantly, it looked like he and Tannehill were starting to get on the same page. This is a bad omen for defenses as they start to game plan for the Titans in the playoffs.
Seventeen games in and it is easy to forget that early in the season Jones was a significant part of the offense. In the first three weeks, Jones had 12 receptions for 204 yards which were overshadowed by the Titans’ slow start to the year.
Had Jones not been nagged by the injury bug through the majority of the season and kept up that pace, we would be having a completely different discussion.
Unfortunately, after those first few weeks, Jones struggled to stay healthy and in the lineup. But in the playoffs, where you are not guaranteed another game, there is no reason to expect Vrabel to restrict Jones and no reason to believe that Jones would not give his all in an attempt to secure the Super Bowl that evaded him in 2016 with the Falcons. Especially with the talent on this Titans team and at this stage in his career, Jones is certainly not concerned with managing reps as he has for much of the season.
It is clear from his early-season play and Sunday’s contribution that Jones is still a top receiver and possesses elite pass-catching ability. More importantly, he can help the Titans win games. And as defenses in the playoffs have to start choosing between doubling down on Henry or dropping into coverage against AJ Brown and Julio Jones, Titans fans still have a chance to see that offense they dreamed about before the season began.