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Bair: Here's why I think Calvin Ridley will move permanently into NFL's elite receiver class

The Falcons traded a top-flight receiver in Julio Jones, but they still have one in Calvin Ridley

Jun 08, 2021 at 08:47 AM
 

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Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley #18 in action during the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 20, 2020.

Julio Jones was a coverage magnet. The top-flight receiver drew attention from safeties and linebackers and opposing defensive coordinators alike over his time as a Falcon, with extra bodies gravitating toward him like moths to a flame.

While he was good enough to make plays despite heavy traffic and defenders all around, Jones' mere presence in the pattern had an ancillary effect. He made life easier on those around him. Other receivers often worked in favorable situations, one-on-one against a cornerback with inconsistent safety help on certain routes.

That's why praising Calvin Ridley might've come with a caveat. Enthusiasm could be tempered by (flawed) logic that sounded something like this: Calvin has unreal talent and has been really productive…for a No. 2 receiver. Man, Ridley had an excellent game that helped the Falcons win… because the other team sold out to stop Julio.

Such excuses would diminish Ridley's exploits, leaving true superstar potential somewhat unnoticed.

That won't be the case anymore. Ridley enters the 2021 season as the Falcons' unquestioned No. 1 receiver after Jones was traded to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday for a compensation package that included a 2022 second-round NFL Draft pick.

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Quarterback Matt Ryan has other quality options available in Russell Gage, No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst and others, but Ridley will be his primary target.

Those same detractors who would add a "but" to Ridley's previous accomplishments will surely wonder (out loud and on social media, no doubt) how he'll fare without Jones on the other side attracting attention.

Ridley answered those questions last season. He proved more than capable of being a top receiver and handling all that comes with the title. 

 

Ridley was awesome in 2020, with 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 15 games after a red-hot start. That earned him second-team All-Pro status. His output stayed high even in the seven contests Jones missed with a nagging hamstring injury.

 
 
Calvin Ridley | best catches of 2020
 

As a matter of fact, his production went up. He averaged 109 receiving yards in the seven games when Jones was inactive, including five where he exceeded triple digits. All told, he had 50 catches for 763 yards and three touchdowns in that span.

Pretty dang impressive and proof that Ridley should be considered among the NFL's elite receivers. Still unconvinced? How about this: Ridley had eight 100-plus-yard receiving games last year. That's more than 22 teams got from their entire receiver corps.

If he stays healthy, expect crazy numbers easily topping 2020's breakout campaign. Many have come to believe Ridley's really, really good. A huge season should take things a step farther and prove he can be great.

I'll save you the wait with this not-so-bold prediction: Ridley is a perennial Pro Bowler in the making. His first should come in 2021, even when the whole world knows he'll be targeted a ton.

Being the top dog will also increase his leadership responsibilities, but Ridley should also be ready for that.   

"Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes," head coach Arthur Smith said last month. "I don't sit here and try to get these guys to be cookie-cutter and say, 'Hey, you have to act a certain way.' We like for these guys to be themselves. Guys are going to lead in their own ways. Usually the more productive guys, guys gravitate towards. We're excited about Calvin and the potential that he brings to our football team this season."

https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/bair-here-s-why-i-think-calvin-ridley-will-move-permanently-into-nfl-s-elite-rec

 

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It will be interesting to see how Smith's offense will change things. In the last two years the Iceman threw 616 and 626 passes. Tannenhill threw 286 (missed a few games) and 481. With nearly 200 less attempts there will be fewer balls to go around. Will his numbers be the same or more efficient?

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2 minutes ago, Jesus said:

It will be interesting to see how Smith's offense will change things. In the last two years the Iceman threw 616 and 626 passes. Tannenhill threw 286 (missed a few games) and 481. With nearly 200 less attempts there will be fewer balls to go around. Will his numbers be the same or more efficient?

Good observation.

I guess it all depends on what AS feels gives the team our best chances for success.  We def need to get the ground game going better & more efficient/ effective.  Love to see our RB’s catch more balls too brother.

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7 minutes ago, Jesus said:

It will be interesting to see how Smith's offense will change things. In the last two years the Iceman threw 616 and 626 passes. Tannenhill threw 286 (missed a few games) and 481. With nearly 200 less attempts there will be fewer balls to go around. Will his numbers be the same or more efficient?

True. Matt could end up with better overall results with fewer opportunities. 

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Agree.  He's a rocket and he has great hands.  Good route runner.  Not denying that Jones is great, but Rid can be great too.  

Ridley is ready to step into a leadership role.  Plus, with Pitts in the mix Ryan will have better options because a TE in play greatly increases the risk of running a double on the WR.  Ridley is going to shine this year.  Can't wait!

Plus Ridley is a Falcon so that makes him better than Jones!!!

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Just now, Jesus said:

It will be interesting to see how Smith's offense will change things. In the last two years the Iceman threw 616 and 626 passes. Tannenhill threw 286 (missed a few games) and 481. With nearly 200 less attempts there will be fewer balls to go around. Will his numbers be the same or more efficient?

give me a balanced offense anyday

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1 minute ago, Mister pudding said:

In before the Julio defenders say that Ridley doesn't get the quadruple teams that Julio did because Pitts takes the coverage when Ridleys TDs remain higher than Jones

Haha for real. Makes me think about people being made about julio coming out of plays. If the scheme was line up and beat your man you had to give it everything. He was already injured.

It was effortless in 16 . I cant be mad at the guy.

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48 minutes ago, HASHBROWN3 said:

Good observation.

I guess it all depends on what AS feels gives the team our best chances for success.  We def need to get the ground game going better & more efficient/ effective.  Love to see our RB’s catch more balls too brother.

I think you'll be seeing that. I noticed Davis had almost 100 yards receiving on 8 catches for Carolina last year in game 2 (before McCaffrey was injured). Throw in the fact that AS will try to get CP the ball in space, and I think we'll be seeing a lot more receiving action out of the RB position. Runs and short passing will be used to open up the long ball again, which is the exact opposite of last year. We'll be more balanced but I don't expect we'll be as balanced as the Titans were last year with almost a 50/50 split run/pass ratio.

We still have a heavier passing game than run game, but it may come down to what the OL does best, run or pass block.

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One random thought as I read through this: If any of you really think Ridley + Pitts = Julio + Ridley, kindly pass some of that my way. 

The premise of this thread it kinda 2020 anyway. AS just does things differently. If we haven't expanded these types of threads to include the RB position by week 5, something is going horribly wrong. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Killing Floor said:

Agree.  He's a rocket and he has great hands.  Good route runner.  Not denying that Jones is great, but Rid can be great too.  

Ridley is ready to step into a leadership role.  Plus, with Pitts in the mix Ryan will have better options because a TE in play greatly increases the risk of running a double on the WR.  Ridley is going to shine this year.  Can't wait!

Plus Ridley is a Falcon so that makes him better than Jones!!!

He may not be the dominant physical force Julio was, but if Pitts pans out he won't have to be. He'll get plenty of opportunities in single coverage and he should feast. 

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Our success this year will depend on our running game. If we have a respectable running game, that will improve all facets of our game. 

One of the reasons for blown leads at the beginning was how quickly we could score. There was no.ryhtym to our offense because of how explosive we were. This tired the defence out too much to where they were gassed by the end of the game. And we scored so quickly on their d that they still had energy. The last two years this wasn't so much the case but I think blown leads just became part of this teams psyche/identity. Here's to hoping we have a solid running game as Smith's O really needs this.

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Posted (edited)
54 minutes ago, falcndave said:

One random thought as I read through this: If any of you really think Ridley + Pitts = Julio + Ridley, kindly pass some of that my way. 

The premise of this thread it kinda 2020 anyway. AS just does things differently. If we haven't expanded these types of threads to include the RB position by week 5, something is going horribly wrong. 

 

 

You already said it but its the system bro. If you have players but no system its hopeless. I believe we will have a system.

Edited by red falcon
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We got a pretty good sample size last year of what to expect from him without Julio and if Pitts develops into anything close to what he could be, that will put a whole different kind of pressure on the defense.  Add a power running game with some PA passes and we could have a very good offense.  The thing about Ridley is one of his strengths is his route running ability and that should translate well to him being the 1.

On top of all of this, I still view the switch away from DK as the key move that could have the biggest impact.

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2 hours ago, Dr Long Shot said:

He may not be the dominant physical force Julio was, but if Pitts pans out he won't have to be. He'll get plenty of opportunities in single coverage and he should feast. 

Totally agree.  Don't need him to be as physical if AS plays tight ends more in the scheme.  And Davis could help with that as well.  

We are on the way up.  

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6 minutes ago, Killing Floor said:

Totally agree.  Don't need him to be as physical if AS plays tight ends more in the scheme.  And Davis could help with that as well.  

We are on the way up.  

Any way you slice it, Pitts was a brilliant pick & has great size & speed.  The good thing is he'll keep getting stronger on an NFL strength training regimen as well.  He was extremely physical in college already.  It's going to be fun to watch he and Ridley go to work!

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