A look at the NFL division playoffs show a class of teams that stand above the rest of the league.
Special Bond Forming In Atlanta
FLOWERY BRANCH, GA. (AP)
Nearly every time Julio Jones reports to work, the second-year Atlanta receiver seeks out position coach Terry Robiskie.
Their ongoing dialogue started at training camp two years ago and hasn't let up.
Jones wouldn't have it any other way.
''Terry isn't going to sugarcoat anything,'' Jones said on Friday. ''If you mess up, you mess up, but he's going to show you how to correct it and what you need to look for.''
It's not hard to see why Jones credits Robiskie with helping him make the NFC Pro Bowl squad last month. On the sideline during games and at practice, Jones is likely standing next to his coach constantly to ask questions and get advice.
Their conversations are give-and-take, but both men say that it's never to the extent that Jones complains about being misunderstood.
Rather, Robiskie wants to know exactly what Jones sees before the snap and what his reason is for the technique he uses to create separation from a cornerback.
It's a formula that's worked well for the Falcons (13-3) heading into their divisional playoff game against Seattle (12-5) on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Jones, 23, has become the deep-ball threat that Atlanta needed before general manager Thomas Dimitroff traded up 21 spots to draft him sixth overall two years ago.
The numbers are impressive considering that only Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson have more catches of 25 yards or more than Jones' 27 since the start of last season.
This year, Jones leads the Falcons with 10 touchdown catches, and he and Roddy White comprised one of four two-man tandems to each have at least 1,000 yards receiving.
But the lessons keep on coming.
''Being as young as he is, he's still got to focus on the game plan - what's the call, where do I go coming out of the huddle, what direction do I go, what route do I have, do I go inside, do I go outside?'' Robiskie said.
''During the course of the ballgame with him, I've got to focus on the guy across from him and let him, `Here's what they're doing to defend you.' "
With 30-plus years of NFL coaching experience, Robiskie is rarely surprised by any move or decision Jones might attempt.
Their work on the field begins each day before practice starts as Robiskie puts the receivers through sideline and end-zone line drills. The purpose is for each receiver to keep his feet in bounds while trying to catch balls that Robiskie purposely throws slightly out of reach.
It's a drill Robiskie learned from his playing and assistant coaching days with Raiders owner Al Davis and one that he's used over the last 30-plus years of working in the NFL.
''I throw the ball near the line where they literally have to dive or reach out across the white (line),'' Robiskie said. ''They have to drag their feet while focusing on the ball. On the end line, I try to throw it high and in the back of the end zone. Their minds have to be on, `I've got to catch the ball and drag my feet.' "
Jones showed how the work has paid off three weeks ago at Detroit as he reached out to catch quarterback Matt Ryan's pass in the right corner of the end zone and dragged his right foot while clutching the ball against the left side of his chest.
The 16-yard catch against Lions cornerback Chris Houston gave the Falcons a 21-3 lead late in the second quarter, but Jones' athleticism was only part of play's success. It took long hours on the field for the technique to seem like second nature.
''Practice makes perfect, man,'' Jones said. ''You've got to continue to keep doing the little things so that it becomes easy to you when you're in the game. When you're in that situation, you don't even think twice about it.''
For Robiskie, it's fun to work with a ''coachable player like Julio.'' He says the three seasons that Jones spent at Alabama, helping coach Nick Saban win his first national title with the Crimson Tide four years ago, gave him the kind of humility that Robiskie values.
''By the same token, Roddy's been with me for five years now and even when I got here (in 2008), he felt that he had all the answers anyway,'' Robiskie said with a laugh. ''He already feels he's got it all unless someone jacks him up and chokes him a little bit. But I don't have to talk to him as much. With Julio, I have to talk to him all the time because I've still got to focus on what I need to do from this to this to this.''
Notes: DE John Abraham (ankle) was limited in practice on Friday and is listed as questionable for Sunday. ... Reserve S Charles Mitchell (calf) is also questionable. ... SS William Moore (hamstring) fully participated in practice for the first time in five weeks. He and CB Dunta Robinson (head) are both listed as probable. ... After losing David Caldwell to become the general manager with Jacksonville, Dimitroff promoted Lionel Vital to replace him as director of player personnel. Vital is in his fifth season with Atlanta, 22nd overall in the NFL.
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