Julio Jones is a weapon that needs to be utilized in the Falcons offense. There are multiple ways they could bring even more out of him than they already have. However, there are five that truly stand out.
From things like screens to deep routes, running the ball and returning it, there's so many things you can do with Jones. He's a Swiss Army knife if the Falcons want to use him as such, and it would make sense to try and get as much out of the explosive receiver as they can.
Jones isn't just a guy who can get 133 catches for 2,157 yards and 18 touchdowns over his first two seasons. He's a guy defenses will key on to try and to stop—something that could hurt said defenses against the Falcons' "pick your poison" offense.
Without further ado, here are "the five ways."
Screens, screens and more screens
Julio Jones was money on screens in 2012. After never being used on screens in 2011, the Falcons wisely brought in Dirk Koetter to completely change the offense to incorporate them. While it's not anything new to the offense, Atlanta needs to utilize this wrinkle just as heavily in 2013.
On screen passes to Jones in 2012, the Falcons were 16-for-16 for 130 yards and two touchdowns (h/t ESPN). While it hurt his overall yards per catch average to get these passes, the ability for him to take a screen pass from anywhere on the field to the end zone scared defenses.
During a specific play versus the Giants, they bit on a screen-pass fake to Jones and Matt Ryan hit Harry Douglas deep. Just imagine what these passes can do for Atlanta in 2013 if they can have the same effectiveness.
Just chuck it up there Dawg, and he'll go get it
As a great NFL receiver once told his quarterback, "Just chuck it up there, dawg. And I'll go get it!" That should be the attitude that the Falcons take with Julio Jones. On passes thrown over 20 yards in the air, he had a combined nine catches for 373 yards and four touchdowns, according to ESPN.
He beat corners and safeties using his deep speed and excellent separation abilities. If the Falcons want to get even more out of Jones, additional passes over 20 yards should be the focus. Wheel and corner routes where he's lined up in the slot are one way to add to his repertoire of deep routes.
Add in the skinny posts and go routes he's already comfortable with, and the Falcons have a great amount of ways to use Jones deep. The only other way to trick defenses with deep routes is to have Jones lined up in the backfield and running deep wheel routes from there.
Throw some quick-hitting slants in there
One thing that Mike Mularkey did that Dirk Koetter got away from was using Julio Jones on quick-hitting slant routes. These routes take advantage of Jones' ability to run after the catch and burn a defense once he finds the hole right down the middle of it.
He embarrassed Indianapolis and Carolina on 5-to-7-yard quick slant routes that found him open in the zones. He took those two plays (0:59 and 2:37 in the video above) over 75 yards for a touchdown each time.
If the Falcons decide to run these routes again in 2013, they should have similar results. Jones has ridiculous change-of-direction ability and yards-after-catch ability. Using this and his top-end speed, he should still be able to embarrass defenses in 2013.
Have him run the ball more
Julio Jones ran the ball just five times for 30 yards in 2012. While he shouldn't rush the ball for 100 times in a season, there should be no reason why he can't get 20-25 carries either out of the backfield, on an end around or even in a direct snap.
His vision is ridiculously good and a big reason as to why his yards-after-catch ability is as good as it is. There was a point in the season where it was a 3rd-and-4 play, but instead of Jacquizz Rodgers or Michael Turner on the field, Jones got the carry for an eight-yard gain.
While the sample size is small, the ability is there. With the addition of Steven Jackson (via USA Today), the Falcons will be less likely to put him in as a running back in that situation. But it should still be a wrinkle in the offense and a way to get Jones the ball—especially from a split-backs pro-set.
Why not use him as a punt returner?
The one thing that Julio Jones hasn't done yet in the NFL is return punts. While he wasn't supremely successful in college as a returner, he has all the tools that a team would want from their return specialist. He has amazing vision, great speed and the ability to make people miss.
There is always the injury risk, but Deion Sanders returned kicks and punts for almost his entire career. While he did miss some time due to injuries throughout his career, it is more likely because he was also playing baseball at the same time.
Jones could be the same kind of returner that Sanders was. Only, he is too valuable to the Falcons offense to actually use him there. They should at least throw him back there two or three times in the season just to see what would happen. Who knows? Jones could take one back for a touchdown.
In the end, the only thing that matters is that Julio Jones continues to be a great player and receiver for Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Expect him to be used to his full potential as his career goes on in Atlanta. Eventually, they may have to pay him in what Randy Moss calls, "Straight Cash, Homie."
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac and Rotoworld. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He also runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.