GLENDALE, AZ — It takes one to know one - and Larry Fitzgerald knows his counterpart on the Atlanta Falcons sideline this Sunday is as good as they come in the National Football League.
“He really has no weaknesses in his game,” said Fitzgerald after Cardinals practice Thursday. "He’s like a mutant. He’s like a superhero.”
Even the most casual NFL fan knows the ‘he’ Fitzgerald is talking about is the Falcons perennial pro-bowl wide receiver, Julio Jones. In his ninth season out of Alabama, Jones remains a titanic force in Atlanta’s offensive arsenal, and stopping him will be “job one” for the Cardinals depleted secondary Sunday at State Farm Stadium.
“I have great respect for a lot of guys around the league,” said Fitzgerald. “Those guys, they just go about their business, and they do it the right way. They let their play do the talking for them. In terms of physicality, there’s nobody like Julio in the game.”
Fitzgerald’s lofty praise is not without statistical back-up. Since arriving as a first-round draft pick in 2011, Jones has averaged 95.6 yards a game receiving. That number is the best in the history of the NFL. It’s remarkable to consider that when it comes to wide receivers taking the field and churning out yards, Julio Jones is the best the NFL has ever seen.
“He’s the most dynamic receiver [in the game today],” said Fitzgerald. He can run every route, and the guy is capable of putting 200 [yards] on you every single day. He can beat you over the top. He can beat you underneath.”
Jones, a six-time pro-bowler who helped the Falcons reach Super Bowl LI, was ultimately rewarded for his game-changing production last month. The Falcons signed him to a 3-year, $66 million extension, making Jones the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL.
Fitzgerald, who’s been known to keep tabs on a contract or two around the league took notice - and approved. In fact, the two were spotted together among a group sitting court-side for the Sun's preseason opener Tuesday night.
“I have a great relationship with him,” said Fitzgerald. “I’m elated for him and his new deal. The way he goes about his business, you never hear about him making any noise. He’s the consummate professional. I’m just happy for his success - so I hope he has a great week next week - whoever they play next week.”