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Falcons rookie WR Jones heating up

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Dec. 23, 2011 @ 5:01 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

The Falcons have had to be patient with rookie WR Julio Jones, their prized, and costly, offseason addition.

He missed three games between Weeks 6-11 with a nagging hamstring injury and has made errors both mental and physical (dropping passes and running the wrong route, for example) at times, but we're told the team is feeling confident that observers will look back at the past 1½ games as a breakthrough period for the player they selected sixth overall after trading up 21 spots in the first round of the draft to grab him.

Atlanta's 17-10 loss to Houston in Week 13 might have served as a low point, and a wake-up call, for Jones, who made multiple errors with the Falcons trying to rally and at least even the score on the game's final drive.

His breakthrough might have coincided with the Falcons' best stretch of the season thus far — they overcame a 16-point halftime deficit to beat the Panthers in the game following the loss to the Texans, and Jones scored two touchdowns during Atlanta's 24-0 run in the second half vs. Carolina. Jones followed that performance with another strong one, making five catches for 85 yards and a TD in the Falcons' 41-14 rout of the Jaguars.

Jones had similarly impressive performances earlier in the season — he had back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 3-4, becoming the first NFL rookie to accomplish the feat since DeSean Jackson did so in 2008. He became the first rookie in franchise history to make 11 catches in a game in his 11-127-0 showing against Seattle in Week Four. He torched Indianapolis for 131 yards receiving and two TDs in Week Nine.

The flashes of brilliance were on full display in the first half of the season, but the team is more optimistic than ever that the rookie mistakes are behind Jones. The three games he missed with the hamstring injury gave him a chance to exhale after having a lot thrown his way between then and the start of training camp in an offseason condensed because of the lockout. He might be approaching the peak of his rookie season with the postseason in sight.

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