INDIANAPOLIS — Georgia’s AJ Green may have had the pre-combine word-of-mouth campaign working for him, but don’t be surprised if Alabama’s Julio Jones hears his name first come draft day.
Jones, if he didn’t pass Green, at least closed the gap on Sunday when he out-performed Green in the 40-yard dash, posting a 4.39 40 time to Green’s 4.50.
Jones then went out and obliterated the field in the broad jump with a leap of 11 feet, three inches, two inches off the combine record.
Those numbers will help Jones’ stock. Good combine numbers are not exactly a recipe for a long NFL career, but Jones has plenty more to offer than just numbers.
Asked Saturday who he patterns his game after, it’s fair to say Jones shocked everyone in the room.
“I like to play the game with a passion,” Jones said. “Ray Lewis, I like the way he plays. Hines Ward, as well. I like the way he blocks and is committed on every play.”
You see, as soft as Green’s hands are and as precise as his routes are, Jones brings a physicality to the receiver position that Green can’t come close to matching.
“I have a defensive mentality,” Jones said. “I’m not scared to hit. I’m a physical guy. I look for that. I like to hit defensive players because they’re not used to getting hit. They’re used to hitting offensive players and getting them out of their comfort zone. So when I hit them, I try to get them out of their comfort zone.”
And it’s not just about payback for Jones. He is an enthusiastic blocker, willing to take on an opponent to free up a lane for a running back.
“I’m not a selfish player,” Jones said. “I go out there and block. Just like the running back who has to stay in and help with protection when I go out for a deep pass. I know he’s going to block for me, so I try to do the same for him.”
Talk is cheap, they say, but Jones did that time and again for Nick Saban at Alabama and has the reputation as one of the best blocking receivers coming out.
Jones’ physical style also suggests he’ll be little more NFL-ready than Green.
The St. Louis Rams could look at a receiver with their 14th overall pick and GM Billy Devaney knows how important a tough wide receiver can be to a team, especially one looking for immediate help.
“Just getting off the ball is a big adjustment for some of these guys,” Devaney said. “These (NFL) corners are animals. I mean, they are good. These (college) receivers just haven’t seen guys like that. Just getting off the ball, that’s a learning process. It’s not easy.”
With the Cincinnati Bengals picking fourth and considering a wideout at that spot, it looks like Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis will settle the debate early.
Will it be Green or Jones?
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Casey Matthews has some strong bloodlines to live up to.
Brother Clay has only been in the league two years and he already owns a Super Bowl ring.
His father Clay Jr. had a 19 year NFL career and his grandfather Clay Sr. was the first Matthews to get to the NFL.
There’s also uncle Bruce, another member of the 19-year NFL club, and a cousin Kevin (Bruce’s son) who is coming off his first year with the Tennessee Titans.
Now it’s Casey’s turn and as much as you might think there would be pressure living up to the family name, Casey doesn’t really look at it that way.
The Oregon inside linebacker has the same flowing hair that his more famous brother Clay has but sounds like a guy with a firm grasp of his place in the Matthews football family tree.
“It’s not necessarily that I have to live up to the name, though it would be nice playing at their level,” he said.
Casey was in Dallas to see Clay break the Matthews family jinx by finally being on the winning side of a Super Bowl, but as much respect as he has for his brother’s game, he knows he has his own unique talents that he hopes to bring to the league.
“Just my instincts,” Casey said when asked what separates him from his older brother. “He’s more of an explosive athlete. We’re different positions. I think my position requires a little more of the instinctual side and getting to the ball quicker. I feel that’s a part of my game that Clay doesn’t necessarily (do) as well. He obviously has a pretty good game.”
This draft is considered weak at inside linebacker so it’s very unlikely that Casey will match or better his brother’s draft spot which was No. 29 overall.
Casey’s fine with that. He knows he is not his brother.
NO. 1 CORNERED?
Patrick Peterson believes he’s in the conversation for the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
The shutdown corner of the LSU Tigers is fast, he’s physical, and he’s coming out of the SEC where he regularly matched up against the best receivers in this year’s draft in AJ Green and Julio Jones.
At six-feet and 219 pounds, there isn’t much Peterson believes he can’t do on a football field, so why should a No. 1 selection be out of reach.
“I hope I can be in play for the first pick,” Peterson said. “It is what it is. The Panthers have the final say-so. It doesn’t matter what I think, what I have to say about it. It’s truly an honour and a blessing to be in this position, anyway. I’m just going to continue taking one thing at a time and waiting for April 28 and see what that day brings me.”
No cornerback has ever been picked first overall in the NFL draft.
If his defensive player-of-the-year award doesn’t convince the Carolina Panthers, perhaps they can justify it with his almost equally impressive punt and kickoff return skills.