Cleveland Browns defensive back Damarious Randall has seen plenty of talented wide receivers during his time in the National Football League, but the very man he will line up against at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday is the one he considers the most difficult of all tests.
And that man is multi-time All-Pro/Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons.
“Julio is the best receiver I’ve faced,” Randall said.
“Big, fast, strong. I mean, you name it. He’s pretty much what you want in your typical receiver nowadays. He’s the guy that if you had to pick a receiver No. 1 in the league, I’m pretty sure probably all 32 teams would pick Julio Jones.”
Randall was far from the only Browns player to have such high opinions of Jones.
“I think there’s a lot of great, talented receivers in this league and he definitely fits the bill,” cornerback T.J. Carrie said.
“He has all the attributes that you want from a receiver. He’s done it at a high level for a very long time and they know how to use him very effectively down there. And that’s going to be something that we’re going to have to be keen on, on how to take away some of the looks that he likes.”
Now in his eighth NFL season out of the University of Alabama, Jones has turned 60 catches into 933 yards, an average of 15.6 yards per reception, with 43 first-down plays and one touchdown, along with a long attempt of 58 yards.
And that nearly 1,000-yard total has come in just eight games.
“He’s very good,” Randall said. “He's if not the best, one of the best receivers up in the NFL. Just watching him on film, he looks healthy for the first time in a couple years. He's really looking like himself back in 2012, when he was dominating.”
Carrie added, “No slip. The hunger is still there. The physicality is still there, the speed. He’s doing everything that he needs to do for that offense to thrive. And when you’ve got him taking up two, it’s an expectation for everybody else to win, right? And that’s how you see the other guys be productive, because he’s doing his job.”
Although teams have given up nearly 1,000 yards to Jones over eight games this season, they have done remarkably well at keeping him out of the end zone, as he has just the one receiving touchdown. However, the Browns know they “have to be spot on” in their coverages against Jones.
“They understand his playmaking abilities,” interim coach Gregg Williams said. “So do we. And so, now, it is a battle of wills. We have to do things that surround him, surround the ball and make it as minimal as possible. He is a very good football player. He is a very good, athletic, talented receiver.”
Carrie added, “Doesn’t matter. I think that they have so many weapons there that it used to be Julio was a big staple of their offense, and now, they have so many other weapons that they can use that Matt Ryan is able to really spread the ball around.
“And so, just because he’s not effective in that area, he’s still doing some very explosive things and he’s opening the doors for other players on that team to be able to be effective, and that’s what you want.”