The Atlanta Falcons appear to have Julio Jones back from a shoulder injury this week. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said in his Monday press conference that Jones is "trending upward" for Sunday's matchup against the Carolina Panthers, marking a return after missing one game with the shoulder injury that sidelined him for the first time since Week 14 of the 2016 season.
Quinn also said Jones had a "much better chance" to play on Thanksgiving if the Falcons were on a normal week instead of three days rest. The Falcons took the cautious approach with Jones heading into the game, even though the loss to the New Orleans Saints eliminated them from playoff contention. Atlanta won't shut down Jones for the final four games. The star receiver has 64 catches for 950 yards for four touchdowns in 11 games, averaging 14.8 yards per catch.
The Falcons got to see what they had at wide receiver outside of Jones in Thursday's loss. Christian Blake had six catches for 57 yards and Russell Gage had five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan still missed Jones, as he had his first multi-interception game since Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Ryan completed 70 percent of his passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns and an 83.1 passer rating.
Having Jones back will be huge against a secondary that allows just 6.5 yards per pass (ninth in NFL). Jones had six catches for 91 yards in a 29-3 win in Week 11. Jones still hasn't caught a touchdown pass since Week 3, but his presence makes the Falcons No. 2 ranked passing attack (295.2) even more dynamic.