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Ryan surprised by success when Julio is shut down

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Last year, Julio Jones was the Atlanta Falcons' offense. Shut down the massive wide receiver with double and triple teams, you stymie Matt Ryan.

That's not the case in 2016.

The Falcons' offense currently functions as the most diverse operation in the NFL, with a backfield that can burn defenses on the ground and in the passing game, and an improved set of receivers that allows Ryan to move the ball when Jones is taken away.

"Since Day 1, I've always said that I have all the belief in the world that those guys are going to make those plays," Jones said, via ESPN.com. "And they have. You saw last week. Austin Hooper did a great job for us. [Taylor] Gabriel did a great job for us. And if Aldrick [Robinson] gets in, he'll do the same thing. Justin Hardy gets in, he's going to do the same thing.

"We've got a lot of ballers in our room. And we're going to step up to that challenge. It's no added pressure. We have a standard in our room. We're going to go out there and we're going to make plays and have fun."

The most telling stat: The Falcons are 3-0 when Jones catches three passes or fewer.

"Yeah, I would say it does surprise (me). I had no idea," Ryan said Tuesday when asked about the success when Jones is blanketed. "To me, I think it speaks to the depth of our offense, of our team. It also speaks to what people are trying to do to eliminate Julio.

"I think I said it after [Sunday's Green Bay] game: I don't ever recall going through a game where I really think every snap that we took, he was double-teamed. When that happens, other opportunities -- single opportunities -- come up for other guys. And I think that 3-0 record speaks to other guys stepping up and opportunities to make plays."

Jones has three games with fewer than 30 yards receiving this season. From 2012-2015, Jones had 1 of 52 games with fewer than 30 receiving yards.

The addition of Mohamed Sanu has been particularly beneficial to Ryan. Instead of forcing the ball to a creaky Roddy White, he has a player that can consistently win one-on-one matchups when teams load up to stop Jones.

Through eight weeks, Ryan has 12 completions of 25-plus air yards, most in the NFL; Jones caught six of those bombs. Ryan had six passes of 25-plus air yards all of 2015; Jones caught all six.

Thursday night, Atlanta gets a rematch with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, airing exclusively on NFL Network. In the Week 1 loss to the Bucs, Ryan threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns. Brent Grimes and Co. held Jones to 66 yards on four catches and a touchdown.

With Grimes playing well this season, expect Ryan to pick on rookie Vernon Hargreaves. Unlike last year, the Falcons employ the weapons to succeed when Jones is covered.

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