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Redskins Secondary Faces Difficult Task In Julio Jones


*Facing one of the league's best wide receivers in Julio Jones, the Redskins' defense must be in sync Sunday to contain him and the rest of the Falcons' offense. *

The best way Redskins head coach Jay Gruden describes Julio Jones -- the way he characterizes his consistent threat on every play -- is as a basketball player.

"He's going to get his touches," Gruden said. "He's going to get his points."

For the sake of the analogy, the Redskins hope the latter isn't true on Sunday.

Check out these photos of the Redskins' defense and special teams preparing for their Week 5 match up against the Atlanta Falcons Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.

But of course, that kind of concession signifies just how dominant the Falcons' leading wide receiver has been through the first four weeks of the season. It also means that the Redskins' defense, which is ranked ninth in opponent's passing yards allowed (210), will have their hands full.

Jones leads multiple receiving categories in the NFL, including receptions (38), yards (478), and has been targeted 52 times by quarterback Matt Ryan, second to the Texans' DeAndre Hopkins. In short, he's the focal point of an offense that is averaging 34.2 points per game.

"Basically with Julio, if you create a player in Madden, that's him," said cornerback Will Blackmon. "He's 6-3, 230 [pounds], 4.4 speed and with all that he's a great competitor. What's impressive about him is with him being at his height and weight, he can get in and out of breaks, so that's what makes it really cool."

Except when he's tasked with covering him.

Jones isn't a typical No. 1 receiver considering he lines up all over the field, often in the slot, sometimes in the backfield and many times in motion. It forces constant attention for defensive backs, who will all have to account for him at some point on Sunday.

"He's just a grown man, he's a serious problem, period," safety Trenton Robinson said. "More than one person has to be on him at all times. You've got to be around him, you've got to know where he is at all times, because he can take over a game, like coach said, by himself. With the quarterback and him in rhythm, it can be a long day for anybody."

The importance in communication is something Robinson focuses on each snap, in charge of his half of the field and making sure corners know their coverages. It will be more significant on Sunday, trying to contain a receiver that preys as much on linebackers as he does safeties.

"His strength isn't just running by you, he's excellent after the catch," Gruden said. "He runs through tackles and has got a big strong stiff arm and he's hard to bring down. Safeties, corners, linebackers – we're all going to have to have a great group effort as far as pursuit is concerned to get him on the grass."

Providing a good push up front will dictate success, too. Giving Matt Ryan ample time in the pocket makes things particularly difficult for a defense, because as linebacker Keenan Robinson said, "when coverages start to breakdown [it's] because it's really hard to cover guys for more than four or five seconds."

Through four games, the secondary has yet to snag an interception, which doesn't concern them too much. In fact, they should have more opportunities against Ryan, who isn't afraid to throw into coverage, hoping his receivers will out-muscle defenders.

"I think they'll come," said Blackmon. "One thing that's cool is we are getting off the field on third downs. The main thing is just keep grinding…We were close on a lot of situations. I feel like they'll come eventually."

While cornerback Chris Culliver is officially out for Sunday's game with a knee injury, second-year corner Bashaud Breeland is confident in his ability facing this kind of challenge – he recorded a game-sealing interception against the Eagles in December and limited Dez Bryant to three catches and 30 yards in a victory in Dallas last October.

His defensive coordinator Joe Barry knows Jones is just as dangerous, but doesn't want the entire defense to change based on one target.

"He's got all the attributes," Breeland said of Jones. "All of us corners, we feel confident that we'll go out and compete and do our best to get this win."

And while Jones is coming off his worst performance of the season, grabbing four catches for 38 yards, the attention he drew opened up lots of other offense for Atlanta, specifically from running back Devonta Freeman.

He contributes even when the ball isn't near him.

In Blackmon's words: "We expect everything this week."




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