HOUSTON -- Everyone, all week long ahead of Super Bowl LI, has reminded the world that Bill Belichick likes to take away an opponent's best weapon. There's no doubt the Falcons' best weapon is Julio Jones, and the Patriots are supremely focused on knowing where the dynamic wide receiver is on every play.
The focus is so intense that Belichick doubled down in practice, with two wideouts playing the role of Jones against his No. 1 defense.
According to a PFWA pool report from Jarrett Bell of USA Today, Belichick and the Patriots have been giving both Matthew Slater and Michael Floyd a golden No. 11 jersey to represent Jones in practice.
The idea is to keep both guys fresh in order to ensure that Fake Julio remains at peak level.
"That's such a key guy for us, the routes and all that," Belichick said. "We have two guys doing it so we won't wear one guy out."
How Belichick handles Jones will be fascinating. The Patriots doubled Antonio Brown during the AFC Championship Game against the Steelers, but Jones is a different beast because of his size and strength. He's probably the best receiver in football right now, having led the league in receiving yards per game for the second straight season. (It should be pretty obvious Belichick respects Julio at this point, yes?)
Belichick always stresses for players to do your job; against the Falcons, everyone's job is going to be ensuring they know where Jones is at all times.
"You've got to know where he is on every play," Belichick said.
Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan likes to move Jones around on offense, making him harder to track, even with multiple players following him.
Which means Slater and Floyd have probably been doing a ton of running this week at practice while pretending to be Julio Jones. If it pays off for the defense, it means Belichick will only burnish that reputation for snuffing out an opposing team's top weapon. And if it doesn't work, anyone who picked the Falcons will probably be feeling pretty good about the outcome of this game.