Julio aims to improve Falcons' red-zone offense

With Julio Jones' financial situation sorted out, for now, the focus has returned to the football field. Unfortunately for Julio, that focus has repeatedly been on the Atlanta Falcons' 2017 red-zone woes.

After the struggles in the red area last season, Jones has labored hard to turn it around in 2018.

"It's very important for me and Matt (Ryan) to be on the same page down there in the red zone," Jones said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN. "Over the years, I have the ability to make plays, and he has the ability to put balls there. But it's all about us being on the same page, not having to think when we get down there, knowing where he's going to put the ball, and knowing what I can do before he puts the ball in there."

Jones caught a plebian three touchdown passes last season, fewer than the likes of Travis Benjamin, Ryan Grant, Rishard Matthews, Mike Wallace or Ted Ginn Jr. In seven NFL seasons, Jones has earned just one double-digit TD campaign (10 in 2012).

The Falcons owned a season-long struggle face in the red zone, finishing 23rd in the NFL in red zone scoring, per Football Outsiders, and converting just 50 percent of their red-area drives into TDs. Compare those mediocre numbers in Steve Sarkisian's first season to their Super Bowl season when Atlanta ranked ninth in red zone efficiency and scored TDs on almost 62 percent of their red-zone drives.

The Falcons' 2017 season ostensibly ending on a failed red zone drive, highlighted by a Matt Ryan pass bouncing off Jones' hands couldn't have summed up the season better.

Jones said fixing those problems has been a focus of the offseason, but his production will still be dictated by coverage.

"It's one of those things when you're down in the red area, a lot of teams double me," Jones explained. "Two-man, guys sit underneath me, so I can't really slant. They have a safety kind of cheated out, as far as the fade balls and things like that. But when we get our opportunities, we've got to make people pay."

The addition of rookie Calvin Ridley could help the Falcons' efficacy in the red zone. We should see plenty of three-receiver sets with Ridley and Jones out wide with Mohamed Sanu patrolling the slot. Improved play from tight end Austin Hooper could also increase productivity.

After a disappointing first season as offensive coordinator, Sarkisian is under pressure to turn it around in Year 2. It's clear fixing the red zone issue is priority numero uno in Atlanta.