Falcons wide receivers, from left, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas talk on the field during a recent practice. Jones is questionable for tonight’s preseason opener. (Reuters)
FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who’s recovering from a broken foot, is ready to go if coach Mike Smith decides to play him in tonight’s exhibition opener against the Dolphins at the Georgia Dome.
“That’s the coaches’ decision,” Jones said. “I’m just here doing whatever they want me to do. I miss football, but just being able to be back out there and run around, feels good.”
Smith said on Thursday that the starters are likely to play one possession today but didn’t say whether or not Jones would see playing time.
“We are going to do like we do every year and get these young guys as many snaps as we can get them,” Smith said.
Jones is keeping his eye on the third exhibition game, which is usually the team’s regular season tune-up game.
“Possibly, the third game,” Jones said. “We’ve been doing a lot of timing and everything. I’ve been with Matt (Ryan), this will be my fourth year. We got the timing and everything down.”
Jones is fine if the Falcons decide to not play him in any exhibition games.
“For me, I just want to be in shape to be able to go out there and sustain for a whole game,” Jones said. “Everything feels great. I’m just doing everything that’s been asked of me.”
Smith has been pleased with Jones’ play.
“Julio has looked fantastic,” Smith said. “We’ve got him on a prescription of a certain number of plays and (he practices) every other day.
“But he’s been out there playing with Matt, Roddy (White) and the rest of the guys. It doesn’t look like they’ve missed a step.”
One Falcon who definitely won’t be playing tonight is rookie linebacker Marquis Spruill, who will miss the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL.
Spruill injured his leg in Wednesday’s practice. Smith said the Falcons will be making a roster move in the near future.
Spruill (6-foot, 224 pounds) was selected by the Falcons in the fifth round (168th overall). He played four years at Syracuse and was one of 15 true freshmen to play in 2010. His 41 tackles for loss ranks second in program history. Spruill started all 13 games in 2013, earning All-ACC honorable mention honors after posting 14.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Spruill was working as a reserve inside linebacker and was expected to be used on special teams.
When the Falcons do take the field tonight, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter revealed that the team will implement the “Pistol” attack into its offensive scheme.
“I would be willing to bet that almost every team in the NFL does,” Koetter said. “The benefits of it have been proven.”
The Pistol formation is a hybrid between the shot gun and a single-back formation, with the running back directly behind the quarterback, who is four yards behind the center instead of seven yards in the traditional shot gun.
The Falcons promised to scrutinized their entire operation this offseason while trying to rebound from a 4-12 season. They believe the Pistol can help the rushing attack, which ranked 29th in the league last season.
“It’s a little more advantageous for the runner when he’s behind the quarterback and he doesn’t have to come across the center for shotgun runs,” Koetter said. “As much as teams are in the gun, it gives you some advantages in the run and it affects the play-action game. We have a lot of different packages and that is one that we are working on right now.”
Ryan will not be required to the run the ball out of the Falcons’ pistol attack.
“When I think of pistol, I think of three things,” Koetter said. “I think Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan. Those are three different styles of pistols.”