The Atlanta Falcons will be without star wide receiver Julio Jones for the second consecutive week due to a sprained toe, head coach Dan Quinn announced Friday.
Coach Quinn has ruled out Julio Jones and Jalen Collins for Sunday’s game. Kemal Ishmael will be placed on IR, JD McKissic to 53-man pic.twitter.com/LEkU6UCmfP
— FalconsKelsey (@FalconsKelsey) December 16, 2016
The Falcons are likely playing it safe with Jones after missing a full week of practice, but find themselves in a tight race for the division title or a wild card spot with three games remaining in the regular season.
Jones has been a consistent playmaker for the franchise ever since being selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and currently leads the league in receiving yards (1,253) despite missing last week’s game against Los Angeles.
While the Falcons will surely miss one of the NFL’s top offensive weapons against San Francisco, Atlanta’s offense should get a boost with return of wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. The Falcons 6-foot-2, 210-pound wide receiver missed the team’s Week 14 win due to a groin injury, but has been a limited participant in practice this week and “look really good” in Friday’s practice, per Quinn.
In his first season with the franchise, Sanu has caught 49 passes for 521 yards and scored three touchdowns. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will surely look to get Sanu involved early against the 49ers defense, but will also look to get speedy wide receiver Taylor Gabriel plenty of touches.
The Falcons 5-foot-8, 165-pound receiver has become a playmaker for Atlanta’s offense in recent weeks, as he has scored five touchdowns in the team’s past six games. Gabriel has the ability to burn past corners and safety with his speed, and is showing consistent big play ability with two receptions over 60 yards in the past four games.
Atlanta’s coaching staff knows how important Jones will be towards winning the NFC South title, and with two division opponents coming in Week 16 and Week 17, resting him likely seemed to be the smartest option. Of course, that will require the Falcons to take of business at home against San Francisco, as they will not want to find themselves a game behind Tampa Bay heading into the last two weeks of the regular season.