Last week I wrote positively about Julio Jones after watching his performance against South Carolina. He followed that display with a school-record 12-catch 221-yard effort against Tennessee. This weekend he’ll face-off with LSU’s highly rated cornerback Patrick Peterson. It’s a NFL meeting a year early.
In 2009 Jones scored his only 100+ yard game against LSU. It’s a slightly deceiving statistic though – a 73-yard touchdown screen padded out the stats and doesn’t represent the way Peterson handled Alabama’s star receiver. ESPN’s Todd McShay sheds some light on what really happened:
Jones caught four passes for 102 yards and a touchdown when these teams met last season, but don’t let the stats fool you into thinking he got the best of Peterson. The two were matched up on 74 percent of the snaps when both were on the field and Jones was targeted on seven of those plays. All seven were in-completions, including an interception that was incorrectly ruled out of bounds.
When I watched Florida vs Alabama this year, I kept a close eye on how Janoris Jenkins (CB, Florida) handled Jones. To be blunt, he completely shut him down. Jones had just four catches for 19 yards – all dump offs and short stuff. When scouts grade Jenkins in the off season they’ll watch the tape of his displays against Jones and A.J. Green last Saturday and that’s why he’ll go as early as I’ve proposed in my latest mock draft.
Alabama have switched their offense slightly this year. Having lost a number of key defensive prospects to the NFL (Terrance Cody, Rolando McClain, Kareem Jackson, Javier Arenas), they haven’t been able to smother teams and dominate with the run. LSU’s stumbling offense might let them off the hook in a similar way they destroyed Florida. However, if the Tigers can keep up, it’ll force ‘Bama to throw.
Expect Peterson to shadow Jones throughout. If he’s going to go as early as some are suggesting (top 5-10) we need to see a big performance. However – it’s an even bigger challenge for Jones.
This week I put him in the top ten of my latest mock. As a prospect with all the physical tools to be a #1 receiver, he’s started to match production with potential. If he excels against a future top NFL cornerback on Saturday – that move will be justified. If he’s shut down again – my original assessment (that Jones deserves to be in the 20-32 range) may have been correct.