One day, Julio Jones will sport a gold jacket as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
On Sunday, the former Atlanta Falcon finally found the end zone for the Tennessee Titans after nearly a season’s wait.
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill found Jones, perhaps the defining receiver of his generation, with about seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter to give the Titans a 28-18 lead that would eventually hold for a victory despite a late Houston touchdown.
“It was good,” Jones said of his touchdown (via Titans Wire). “It has been a process for me going back and forth, playing, not playing. The guys have just supported me through the whole time, and they came out there and they celebrated, and we just shared the moment. So it was just cool to have your brothers come out there. Play one play at a time for one another, then just going out there and scoring, and it’s just like, it meant more to them than me to get out there and score.”
Jones, the Titans’ marquee trade acquisition from last summer, hasn’t quite been his prolific self in his first year in Tennessee, hauling in 434 yards and a touchdown in 10 games.
He’s struggled with injury this season and landed on the COVID list late in the year, but Sunday’s game showed Titans fans a brief glimpse of the end zone domination Jones found in his best years as an Atlanta Falcon.
While 2021 has been the lowest season of the wideout’s career in terms of yardage and scoring (including 2013, when he landed on IR in October of that year), the Titans will get a healthy Jones at an opportune time – the team has just sewed up the top seed in the AFC and will have a bye week next week.
With the Super Bowl going through Nissan Stadium, Jones might get a chance to show the Titans why they sent a second-round pick to Atlanta last summer to acquire the future Hall of Famer.
Jones has a history of putting on a show in the postseason. In Atlanta’s Super Bowl run in 2017, Jones amassed 331 yards and three touchdowns in three games. That year, the Falcons won the NFC title before infamously blowing a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots for the Super Bowl title.
What’s lost in that game is Jones’ all-time Super Bowl sideline catch that should’ve put the Falcons in field goal range to win the game. Outside of his manhandling of the Packers secondary in the NFC title game, it was the biggest moment of the former first-round pick’s career.
With the Titans able to spread the ball around in the passing game with A.J. Brown, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Anthony Firkser, among others, and the impending return of All-Pro running back Derrick Henry, Jones won’t have to be the focal point of the offense like he was in Atlanta, which could make him even more dangerous.
“I’m here … whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do it, and I can do it,” Jones said Sunday. “Defenses or D-coordinators or whatever underestimate me, that’s great. I love it, love to take advantage of it. It was just good being a part of the offense today. Moving forward, I’ll help wherever I can help for the team.”
The Titans could part ways with Jones if they choose after the season as a post-June 1 cut, which would clear $9.3 million in space. Though, for now, they’ll want to see what the receiver is capable of in helping them get back to the Super Bowl for the first time in more than 20 years.
The Titans will be able to see what the Jet can do for them when they host a to-be-determined opponent in the AFC Divisional round next weekend.