Julio Jones didn't alter the Tennessee Titans' 2021 season as expected following his trade from Atlanta, but there is still a chance for the star receiver to make a lasting impact in the postseason.
Jones authored his first TD of the season in Week 18 against Houston after playing nine games without a TD catch. Sunday's five-catch, 58-yard performance was just the WR's third game over the 50-yard mark this campaign.
"It felt good to get out there and start hitting some shots, and making some plays for the offense," Jones said, via the team's official website. "It was good. It's been a process for me, going back and forth playing, not playing.
"The guys just supported me through the whole time, and they came out there and they celebrated (after the three-yard touchdown catch), and we shared that moment. It was just cool to have your brothers out there. We play one play at a time for one another."
Through one regular season in Tennessee, Jones was superfluous in the Titans earning the AFC's No. 1 seed. Jones set career-lows this season in receptions (31), receiving yards (434), receiving yards per game (43.4), and rec TD (1) while missing seven games (hamstring, COVID-19).
The Titans hope the season-ending performance indicates an upswing as Tennessee heads into the postseason. Securing the bye allows the Titans not only to rest but get more practice reps in between Jones and quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
"I think the ability for him to be out there and put some days of practice together and Ryan to start to build some trust in throwing the football there," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Jones and his performance in Houston. "I thought he played really well for us. I saw him trying to block, trying to finish, so it was great."
If Jones dominates the postseason -- or even just makes a few big plays here and there, frankly -- Titans fans will forget the dismal campaign. Jones has averaged 104.3 receiving YPG in eight career playoff games (6 rec TD); only Larry Fitzgerald (104.7) has a higher playoff average among all players with at least five postseason games since the 1970 merger.
"I have been playing the game for so long," Jones said. "I am here. Whatever the team needs me to do, I am willing to do, and I can do it. If defenses, defensive coordinators or whatever underestimate me, that's great. I love it, we'll take advantage of it.
"It was good being a part of the offense (in Houston), and moving forward, helping where I can help to help the team."
With Julio showing life in the offense, Derrick Henry poised to return and A.J. Brown back to his dominating ways, the Titans might finally be the force we expected entering the season. That they've earned the No. 1 seed without the stars playing much of the season together underscores the job Vrabel & Co. have done. Tennessee is getting healthier at the right time to make a deep postseason run.