In a move that should surprise nobody, the Atlanta Falcons have ruled out wide receiver Julio Jones for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. Jones is dealing with a turf toe injury suffered in Week 13, which cost him the Falcons game last week. He has not taken part in practice all week.
The Falcons were without both Jones and Mohamed Sanu last week against the Los Angeles Rams, but still went on the road and put up a big point total. They face a 49ers squad that is struggling in most facets of the game, giving up huge rushing and receiving totals. The Falcons are in a must-win area of the season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers right on their heels, but the 49ers are not a game in which they need to force Jones back on the field.
Mohamed Sanu is expected back this week, and Taylor Gabriel will start opposite him. Gabriel and Justin Hardy got the start last week. Hardy will likely be the third receiver for the Falcons. Pro Football Focus posted some stats for each matchup this week, and according to their database, Gabriel averages 2.47 yards per route run, which is fourth-most among receivers with 200 or more routes run. They had this to say about Gabriel:
It is rare for two wide receivers on the same team to be in the top five for this stat, but the Falcons have managed this with Gabriel and Jones. Gabriel has had at least 44 yards in each of his last six games, as well as five touchdowns. With Jones and Mohamed Sanu battling injuries, the Falcons will need to rely on Gabriel for their playoff run. This week, he faces the 49ers, whose biggest defensive strengths are their defensive backs and linebackers in coverage. If receivers like Gabriel can have a strong performance, the Falcons will put up a lot of points.