Containing Julio Jones is a tall, physical order for Cowboys secondary

Drew Davison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in Football

FRISCO, Texas -- Protect the roof.

That's the analogy Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli used in terms of how to contain Atlanta Falcons standout receiver Julio Jones.

Jones, who is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, is regarded as one of the top receiving threats in the NFL, and is on pace for a fourth consecutive season with at least 1,300 receiving yards.

"It's like building a house. You've got walls and a roof," Marinelli said. "Make sure our roof is in good shape, OK? Cause it'll start raining on us, so we've got to keep the roof."

Jones is no stranger to going over the top and exposing leaky "roofs." He's done it ever since coming into the league as the sixth overall pick in 2011.

Last month, Jones became the second-fastest receiver in league history to reach the 8,000-yard mark in his career behind Lance Alworth.

"He's one of the greats," Cowboys rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis said. "He's a great athlete. He can run all the routes and he's fast. He's a generational talent."

"I just think he is a rare player," Garrett said. "He is rare physically. He is so big and strong. He is fast. He is quick. He is explosive. He is a great route runner. Unbelievable competitor. He is so strong at the ball.

"He gets a lot of attention every week and just seems to make these plays over and over again. He is very instinctive. Very intuitive. Great run after the catch. He is mentally tough. He is physically tough. He is an outstanding player."

A talent the Cowboys will have to contain if they want to extend their winning streak to four games on Sunday.

The Cowboys' secondary has given up just two 100-yard receiving games this season – Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald had 149 receiving yards in Week 3 and Washington's Jamison Crowder had 123 in Week 8.

Other than that, though, the Cowboys' secondary has fared all right. They rank 15th in pass defense, allowing an average of 223.4 yards a game. Confidence is high now, too, after an impressive performance last Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

This unit is the first to intercept Chiefs' quarterback Alex Smith, and held two of the league's receiving leaders to less than 100 yards in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.

So they see no reason why they can't have similar success against Jones.

"If you want to make your name in this league, you have to play against the best," cornerback Anthony Brown said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge. I'm excited."

The Cowboys will try to match Jones' physicality and get him re-routed as best as possible.

"You want to minimize his touches," safety Byron Jones said. "That's coverage -- understanding where he's on the field and understanding where they want to take advantage of our defense."

Easier said than done, of course.

The Cowboys know that Julio Jones is going to make plays on them. It's just a matter of not letting him and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan find a rhythm that could turn borderline unstoppable.

"These guys are pro football players," Garrett said. "They are going to complete passes. Matt Ryan is a great quarterback, Julio is a great receiver. They've got other weapons. Those things happen.

"You just got to keep banging away. You got to keep fighting and scratching and hopefully over time, you keep them out of scoring opportunities and you force them to punt the ball. You just play good, sound, solid defense."

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