WR Justin Hardy - Atlanta Falcons
|5-10, 192||Born: 12-18-1991||College: East Carolina||Drafted: Round 4|
Week 21: vs New England Patriots
Mark and Joe say: Neutral matchup. First things first - Julio Jones (toe, foot) said on Wednesday, February 1 that he's ready to go and doesn't expect his foot injuries to limit him in the Super Bowl. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Julio Jones (toe) 'looked great' in the Monday, January 30 practice. Jones averaged more than 100 receiving yards per game in 2016, and he is he first player in NFL history to average more than 100 receiving yards per game in four different seasons. He was a one-man wrecking crew against the Packers two weekends ago, with 12 targets for 9/180/2 receiving, playing through pain from his foot and toe injuries. How hot is the Atlanta passing offense entering Super Bowl LI? Well, Matt Ryan is the only quarterback in playoff history to throw for at least three touchdowns in four straight playoff games. So far this post-season, Ryan has thrown seven passing scores, with 26/37 for 338 yards passing, three TDs and zero interceptions thrown against the Seahawks two games ago (he took three sacks for -15 yards), and then a jaw-dropping 27/38 for 392 yards passing, four TDs and zero interceptions thrown, with zero sacks taken, during the 44-21 demolition of Green Bay two weekends ago. Beside Jones' outstanding performance, Mohamed Sanu (1/7/0 rushing with seven targets for 5/52/1 receiving) and Devonta Freeman (five for 4/42/1) also scored against the Packers. With 730 yards passing, seven TDs and zero interceptions thrown so far during the playoffs, Ryan and the Falcons enter the Super Bowl flying high in this phase of the game. Two games ago, Brock Osweiler struggled at Gillette Stadium, throwing 23/40 for 198 yards passing, one TD and three interceptions, while taking three sacks for -17 yards. Ben Roethlisberger fared a little better, with 31/47 for 314 yards passing, one TD and one interception thrown (with zero sacks taken), but his team still lost 17-36. During the post-season, New England has averaged 247 net passing yards allowed per game, with two TDs surrendered vs. four interceptions generated - during regular season the Patriots ranked 12th in the NFL averaging 237.9 net passing yards allowed per game, with 21 passing scores handed out vs. 13 interceptions (tied for 15th in the NFL) and 34 sacks (tie-16th) generated. Over the final three weeks of regular season, New England averaged a mere 11.6 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing quarterbacks (least in the NFL); 18.9 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing wide receivers (13th-least) and just 3.4 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing tight ends (sixth-least). As you can see, they have been close to their season average in passing yards allowed, but have generated more interceptions than usual this season during the post-season. Ryan is playing at an other-worldly level during the post-season, while the Patriots' pass defense has been adequate, but allowed 314 net yards passing to the Steelers most recently - this is a neutral matchup for the powerful Atlanta offense.
Recent Stats and Projections
Recent Game Summaries
2016 Week 19 vs SEA (2 / 2 / 18 / 0 rec, 1 / 0 / 0 rush)
Hardy gained maybe a yard on an end around at the 40 of Seattle when Michael Bennett kept the WR at bay during the first Atlanta drive. He earned a short gain for a first down in the right flat early in the third quarter to get Atlanta inside the 21 of Seattle. The officials ruled a drop on a 3rd and 10 out early in the fourth quarter at the sideline after Hardy rolled out of bounds with the ball and hit the towel guy. The replay officials awarded Hardy the catch and an important third-down conversion during the second half. It wasnft a big day for Hardy, but two first downs helped the cause.
2016 Week 17 vs NO (7 / 4 / 43 / 1 rec)
This was his best game of the year and nearly half of his yards came on a short in-cut seven yards downfield on a 3rd and 8 late in the half. He broke a tackle across midfield, got the first down and worked up the right sideline with a stiff-arm on a safety for another 10 yards. The Saints looked worn-out in terms of effort and intensity of tackling. After a Sanu screen for 15 yards late in the half, Hardy caught a fade at the right pylon at the front of the goal line for the score. It was a good stretch for the ball.
2016 Week 14 vs LA (2 / 2 / 9 / 1 rec)
The slot option scored on a three-yard pass on the first offensive play of the game after Atlanta recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff. He caught a quick stick route shy of the first down marker with 1:45 in the half. It was a third-down play and forced a punt late in the half. Hardy worked open for a 10-yard gain on an improvised play when a screen didn't come open during the second half, but the play was called back due to Alex Mack getting down field illegally. It wasn't Mack's fault, the Rams foiled the initial screen and Matt Ryan had to hold onto the ball and find Hardy on the improvised play.
2016 Week 13 vs KC (3 / 1 / 5 / 0 rec)
Ryan overshot Hardy on an end line target that was too high on 3rd and goal from the 2. Atlanta settled for a field goal. Hardy made a quick catch on 3rd and 3 on a slant for a first down. He later dropped a crossing route in the end zone against tight coverage with 4:37 in the game.
2016 Week 12 vs ARI (4 / 3 / 47 / 0 rec)
Hardy made a leaping catch for 27 yards on a sail route against Patrick Peterson playing off coverage and got Atlanta inside the Arizona 10, setting up a score. He also caught a shallow route for a first down later in the second quarter and then a quick slant for a first down with 0:45 in the half. Hardy faced off man or zone coverage and still hasn't shown skill beating tight man, which is why he's behind Gabriel in the rotation.
2016 Week 8 vs GB (1 / 1 / 13 / 0 rec)
His only target was a dig route for a first down with less than 3:30 in the game to reach midfield.
2016 Week 6 vs SEA (3 / 3 / 30 / 0 rec)
After Taylor Gabriel was knocked from the game, Hardy made two timely plays. The first was a slant under a defender to midfield on 3rd down early in the third quarter. It kept the drive alive to cut Seattle's lead to seven. He then caught a tipped third-down pass to get Atlanta into Seattle territory. His final target was a 2nd and 8 catch on the slant with a low throw directed to a spot where only Hardy could make the play.
2016 Week 4 vs CAR (0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
He nullified an Eric Weems punt return that reached midfield because he held on the play. He also had a 32-yard punt return of his own through a good crease up the left flat. He was not targeted in the passing game. Taylor Gabriel has vaulted him on the depth chart.
2016 Week 3 vs NO (2 / 2 / 26 / 1 rec)
Hardy took a shovel pass with a fake end around and dove over James Laurinitis for the score. It was the play of greatest consequence for the receiving game that didn't include a running back.
2016 Week 2 vs OAK (3 / 1 / 8 / 1 rec)
Hardy might be looking over his shoulder with Taylor Gabriel joining the club. His only target wasn't even intended for him. Tevin Coleman earned a target on a slant late in the fourth quarter and the Raiders' linebacker hit the back, forced the ball to ricochet off the runner, and Hardy was the man on the spot, making the rebound just ahead of Sean Smith for the go-ahead score. Great awareness but he was otherwise silent and not an active part of the passing game.
2016 Week 1 vs TB (2 / 1 / 0 / 0 rec)
He dropped a pass after contact in the late first half over the middle and his second target resulted in a catch without a gain.
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