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Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley on kickoff returns: 'I want to get the ball'

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Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley on kickoff returns: 'I want to get the ball'

Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons first-round draft pick Calvin Ridleywasn't initially expected to become an immediate contributor on special teams, but he's more than willing to fulfill the need if asked.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn mentioned during the offseason how Ridley could get a look at kickoff returner along with Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall and fellow rookie Ito Smith. Such a scenario came to life in last Friday's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, when Ridley returned the opening kickoff 34 yards to help set up a touchdown. His pair of returns for 52 yards earned him another shot at returning in this Saturday's third preseason game at Jacksonville (7 p.m. ET).

So is Ridley ready to become the team's full-time kickoff returner?

"I'm trying to help the team the best I can," Ridley said Sunday. "Any possible way. It doesn't matter. I want to get the ball. That's another way for me to get it, another opportunity to showcase my ability. So if coach wants me back there and he trusts me enough to do that, I'll do whatever it takes."

It's only natural to wonder if using Ridley in the return game is a wise move, considering the injury risk. He is expected to play an integral role on offense, possibly as Matt Ryan's No. 2 target behind Julio Jones.

Coach Dan Quinn isn't overly concerned about such risk, citing the change in kickoff rules aimed to reduce collisions, the number of touchbacks expected and the possible use of multiple kickoff returners as reasons why it wouldn't compromise Ridley's health.

"If I felt that was the case, I certainly wouldn't put a player in a spot to do that," Quinn said. "He's definitely going to have a significant role on offense. But his role also is to create explosive plays. And if that's either way, we'd certainly consider that."

Ridley isn't worried about potential injury, either.

"I've just got to protect myself," he said. "And I trust my teammates to go out there and block and help me set up stuff so we can be efficient and help the team look good and win."

Ridley, who ran a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, has the speed and change of direction to be an effective return specialist. The last first-round wide receiver who had a significant role as a returner as a rookie was fellow Alabama product Amari Cooper, who returned eight punts for the Oakland Raiders in 2015.

Of the eight wide receivers who had 20-plus kickoff returns last season, only one of them -- Tyler Lockett of Seattle -- had a significant role on offense. Lockett, who was second in the league with 37 kickoff returns and averaged 25.6 yards per return, had 45 receptions for 455 yards and 2 touchdowns. None of the other seven wide receiver/kickoff returners had more than 13 receptions.

Former Falcon Andre Roberts led the league with 38 kickoff returns last season for an average of 22.6 yards, which ranked ninth best among regular returners. But that wasn't necessarily a good thing, considering touchbacks land the ball at the 25-yard line. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Falcons' average offensive field position after kickoff last season was the 24.6-yard line, which ranked 26th in the league. Their average overall field position was at 25.9 yards, which ranked second-to-last in the league, just above the Houston Texans (25.2).

The Falcons haven't had a "feared" kickoff returner since Devin Hester in 2014-15, and Hester's probably the greatest return man of all time.

However, as the return game unfolds for the Falcons leading into the season, they definitely could use a boost. And Ridley could provide it.

"He is dynamic with the ball in his hands," Quinn said.

 

http://tv5.espn.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/32637/falcons-rookie-calvin-ridley-on-kickoff-returns-i-want-to-get-the-ball

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Dan Quinn says he’ll consider Calvin Ridley being the Falcons’ starting kick returner

Kelsey Conway

ATLANTAFALCONS.COM REPORTER

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons drafted Calvin Ridley for what he can bring to the offense, but after two preseason games, it’s not out of realm to think that in addition to his role at receiver, he could very well be the Atlanta’s No. 1 option at kick returner.

And Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he would consider it.

Ridley returned two kicks for 52 yards in the Falcons’ second preseason game. Throughout training camp, Ridley was one of the players who got reps as a returner during the special teams portion of practice.

Based off what Ridley’s value in the offense is expected to be, it begs the question: Are the Falcons willing to have him return kicks knowing that? The question comes from the common thought that if a player is back returning kicks every time, could he be more susceptible to injuries than if he just stayed playing offense or defense.

Quinn said he recognizes the question, but at the end of the day, if Ridley is the player who gives the Falcons the best shot at good starting field position, he’s all for it. 

“He’s definitely going to a have significant role on offense,” Quinn said. “But his role also is to create explosive plays and if that’s either way, we would certainly consider that.”

Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said they’ll take it through all four games before making a decision and Ridley is someone coach Quinn said will get another crack at it on Saturday night in Jacksonville.

The Falcons finished last in the league in average starting field position according to Pro Footabll Reference. On average, the Falcons began each drive at their 25-yard line.

So if Ridley can help in that regard, it’s no wonder Quinn is seriously considering it.

 

https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/dan-quinn-says-he-ll-consider-calvin-ridley-being-the-falcons-starting-kicker-re

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14 minutes ago, Stray Dog THA GAWD said:

And risk getting him hurt?  GTFOH

Do KR’s consistently get hurt? Steelers let AB do PR’s. 

Edited by falconsfan4life3
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5 minutes ago, falconsfan4life3 said:

Do KR’s consistently get hurt? Steelers let AB do PR’s. 

Not sure about consistently, especially with new rules, but don't want to risk an eventual WR2 like this.

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5 minutes ago, youngbloodz said:

Let him do it. Can't worry about injuries. This is football. Ish happens 

 

3 minutes ago, Malachore said:

The Steelers are using the best WR in the league to return punts, risk it to get the biscuit.

Any dude off the street can do this.  I don't want my first rounder out there :D

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Just now, Stray Dog THA GAWD said:

 

Any dude off the street can do this.  I don't want my first rounder out there :D

and suck at it see andre roberts, fair catch franks, ito smith, old as dirt weems etc....

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Just now, Yo_Lover said:

You can't play scared. You play to win. Put your best guys out there. Period.

We have other "best" guys who could do the same. Put Gage back there. Put Trufant back there. Put Sark back there, just dont put Ridley the Rook back there.

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1 minute ago, Flying Falcon said:

We have other "best" guys who could do the same. Put Gage back there. Put Trufant back there. Put Sark back there, just dont put Ridley the Rook back there.

But if Ridley is better then that's not putting the best out there.

If you're scared he'll get hurt then that's your problem. See how that works?

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3 minutes ago, jdawg4876 said:

and suck at it see andre roberts, fair catch franks, ito smith, old as dirt weems etc....

Weems was good when he was younger, but the rest were garbage as we all know.  Still not putting a first round pick out there to get his head taken off or have someone fall on his leg wrong.

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Just now, Stray Dog THA GAWD said:

Weems was good when he was younger, but the rest were garbage as we all know.  Still not putting a first round pick out there to get his head taken off or have someone fall on his leg wrong.

punts I see the concern not so much on kicks offs, ridley played it great against kc and got out of bounds when he needed to

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Just now, jdawg4876 said:

punts I see the concern not so much on kicks offs, ridley played it great against kc and got out of bounds when he needed to

That's a start.  We'll see what they opt to do.  Definitely don't want to see anyone with Ito's hands out there though.

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7 minutes ago, Yo_Lover said:

But if Ridley is better then that's not putting the best out there.

If you're scared he'll get hurt then that's your problem. See how that works?

And if he gets hurt trying to get an extra yard, then it will be the WHOLE FALCONS NATION'S problem.

See how that works?

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