When the Minnesota Vikings have faced teams with one dominant receiver, Rhodes has sometimes been asked to stay with that receiver whether he is lined up on the left or right side of the field. That was the case against Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson in the past year. When the Vikings faced the Green Bay Packers, that didn’t happen with Randall Cobb because Cobb is often lined up in the slot, where Rhodes doesn’t play.
Jones has been one of the NFL’s best this year, maybe the best.
“You see it every year, he’s always one of the top receivers coming in. He’s one of the best in the league,” Rhodes said, listing the qualities that make Jones so effective.
“His speed. He’s physical. He runs great routes. He catches everything coming his way. He’s a great receiver – not even a good one, he’s a great one.”
Jones has certainly lived up to that billing this year. He overtook Antonio Brown for the receiving lead with 1,189 yards to date, averaging 118.9 yards per game. He is also the leading wide receiver for yards after contact with 439 such yards.
“He’s a factor in the pass game, the catches. He’s also a factor in the run game; he’s a really unselfish guy, so to come down and crack a safety to get Devonta (Freeman) on the edge, he does that,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “I think the deep balls, because of his size and strength, he’s able to go up and get it, but it’s the challenge because it’s the size and strength combination when you’re playing man to man that the ball can be a bit away, and he has the length to go get it. So coaching against him I knew the challenge, and I’m glad I didn’t know everything I know now, I would have been more worried. He’s a handful for sure.”
Rhodes was clear in his distinction of Jones versus the Falcons’ other receivers.
“They have a great receiver in Julio and they have good receivers. As you see, they try to get Julio the ball. He averages a lot of targets a game,” Rhodes said. “That’s their main guy who they try to go to, but let’s not forget about the other receivers.”
Rhodes is right about Jones being the main target. He is only one behind NFL leader DeAndre Hopkins with 134 targets, and nobody else has more than 114 targets.
Rhodes said he likely wouldn’t find out if he is shadowing Jones until a day or two before the game because Vikings coaches want defensive backs studying the opponent’s offensive concepts and all the receivers rather than concentrating on a specific receiver.
“Whatever coach’s decision they make – if that is the case, which we’ll find out, you have to embrace that,” Rhodes said. “That’s one of the best so you have to bring you’re A game.”