CHARLOTTE – It’s that time again for cornerback James Bradberry.
“We all know,” Bradberry said. “I’m ready for a battle.”
And that’s exactly what Carolina’s No. 1 corner will get against a superstar like Jones, who is coming off a 10-catch, 169-yard performance in Atlanta’s season-opening loss at Philadelphia.
For Bradberry, this is the third year of preparing to face Atlanta’s famous No. 11. The experience doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, but it makes him more comfortable and confident during the week.
“I’m prepared for what I’m going to see throughout the game,” Bradberry explained. “I have my routine down. But it’s going to be competitive and it’s going to be hard – it’s Julio.”
Bradberry has reason to feel good about himself entering this matchup. He’s faced Jones four times with respectable results. The alarming outlier of course came in Week 4 of Bradberry’s rookie year when he exited the game due to injury after just one series and Jones proceeded to GO OFF for 300 yards.
As cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said, “I think they burned that tape.”
JULIO JONES’ LAST FOUR GAMES VS. CAROLINA
- 2016 Week 4: 12 catches on 15 targets, 300 yards, 1 TD
- 2016 Week 16: 4 catches on 7 targets, 60 yards, 0 TD
- 2017 Week 9: 6 catches on 12 targets, 118 yards 0 TD
- 2017 Week 17: 5 catches on 11 targets, 80 yards, 0 TD
Bradberry will likely line up across Jones for the majority of Sunday’s game. But rookie cornerback Donte Jackson might have an opportunity or two. Plus, the second-rounder will have his hands full with Mohamed Sanu and Atlanta’s other talented receivers.
You’d think a veteran quarterback like Matt Ryan will look to test a rookie corner in his first regular season road game.
“Hopefully,” Jackson said. “We know they have a lot of great players on the offensive side.
“I don’t really know what a ‘welcome to the NFL’ moment is, but I’m ready for it.”
Bradberry, who is just a few years removed from being the rookie corner with a target on his back, has confidence about what will take place on the other side of the field.
“With the speed he has, Donte can run and compete with anybody. He’s not going to be worried about it,” Bradberry said. “They’re going to go to Julio – that’s their go-to guy, so I’m preparing to get most of the targets.”
That’s a safe assumption.
A game like this offers Bradberry a chance to take a big step toward his goal of becoming recognized as one of the league’s top corners.
“I know James is ready for it. I have all the faith in the world in James,” Munnerlyn said. “I remember being around a young guy named Xavier Rhodes (in Minnesota). Nobody knew about him. And when we started playing Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones and guys like that, he made a name for himself. Now he’s probably one of the best corners in the game.”
Bradberry is hoping to follow a similar trajectory.
Nothing will get him noticed like an impressive outing against Jones. And against A.J.Green the next week. And against Odell Beckham, Jr. after that.
“I’m still trying to earn the league’s respect,” Bradberry said. “I’ve played well at times, but not consistently.
“I have to do it consistently, and do it against guys like Julio.”