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Is Calvin Ridley ready to take on Julio Jones’ role for the Falcons? - The Athletic


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by Tori McElhaney

 

Calvin Ridley always has been specific about the goals he sets for himself. In 2020, he said he wanted to be elite among league receivers. He wanted to earn his first 1,000-plus receiving yard season, too. He did both in 2020, and he did so in the shadow of a giant.

Julio Jones may have been injured for a good portion of the 2020 season, but that doesn’t take away from what Ridley was able to do on his own when given the chance. Now in 2021, Ridley’s role shifts with Jones traded to the Titans. Ridley will step out of the shadow for the first time and into his own spotlight. The question is: Is Ridley ready?

The Athletic digs in to uncover the answer.

The question

Is Calvin Ridley ready to take on Julio Jones’ role for the Falcons?

The comment

Arthur Smith, Falcons head coach: “Calvin has been a really productive player here so far and his best days, hopefully, are ahead for him. I’ve been impressed with Calvin – the person and the player.”

Matt Ryan, Falcons quarterback: “I think one thing that probably impacts Calvin more than anything — and it doesn’t take away from how good of a player he is — is your statistics get skewed because of the guy (Jones) playing on the opposite side from you. There’s only so many plays in a game, and we have so many talented guys, but I think the people who know, the people who have to play against Calvin or try to guard him in man-to-man coverage know he is elite. He’s exceptional.”

Raheem Morris, former Falcons defensive coordinator and interim head coach: “Calvin, without a doubt, in our head, is clearly a No. 1 wideout in the National Football League. When you compare those two together, they are two guys out there who have No. 1 ability, and it makes it hard on the defense as to who you possibly double or if you double them at all, whether you can even double both of those guys. You definitely open up things for other people. But it would be hard for me to say that Calvin would be better without Julio. It would be hard for me to say that Julio would be better without Calvin. I think those two guys together do a really good job of complementing each other. Obviously, when you are talking about Julio, you are talking about, potentially, one of the greatest players to ever play our game at that position — and in other positions, for that matter. He’s certainly somebody that you want to play with.”

Calvin Ridley, Falcons No. 1 receiver: “I feel like since my rookie year I’ve gotten better every year, and honestly it’s just come from confidence because I have the ability to do whatever I want. When you go from getting the least (amount of) targets to getting the most targets and you can play? You’re going to get stats, you’re going to get yards, you’re going to get catches and you’re going to be in the mix of some of the better players in the league.”

Ricardo Allen, former Falcons safety: “Calvin is a No. 1 (receiver). He’s just on the other side of one of the greatest wide receivers to play the game. That’s not giving him any discredit. With Calvin, he understands who he is. He embraces his role, and he embraces that role really well. He knows that if he goes to any team in this league that he would be a No. 1 target. He would be a No. 1 guy. … I love Ridley’s game. I know he’s the real deal. I would for sure get one of his jerseys if I could.”

The evidence 

Combined stat line in 2018-19: 29 game appearances | 15 starts | 185 targets | 127 receptions | 1,687 receiving yards | average of 13.3 yards per catch | 17 touchdowns | average of 58.2 receiving yards per game

Final stat line in 2020: 15 game appearances | 15 starts | 143 targets | 90 receptions | 1,374 receiving yards | average of 15.3 yards per catch | nine touchdowns | average of 91.6 receiving yards per game

2020 average production with Julio Jones on the field (eight games): eight targets | five receptions | 76 receiving yards | less than one touchdown per game

2020 average production without Julio Jones on the field (seven games): 11 targets | seven receptions | 109 receiving yards | less than one touchdown per game

The verdict

Ridley is ready.

In his first and only media availability of OTAs, Ridley said as much. He explained this next step feels like the natural progression in the league.

“I played with Julio, Mohamed Sanu and since Day 1 (with) those guys I feel like I have been moving toward that (spot),” Ridley said of now taking up the No. 1 receiver mantle. “I can do it by myself. I mean obviously, I am not by myself. We have other players who are really good. But I’ve been ready. I just needed an opportunity to get in those positions.” 

There was a sample of what that opportunity looked like for Ridley, when Jones missed much of 2020 with a hamstring injury. He had a boost in production when Jones was not on the field with him. His average targets, receptions and receiving yards per game all made a jump. And though his touchdowns per game didn’t, that is more on the Falcons’ overall lack of production in the red zone than on Ridley himself.

In early December, The Athletic took a look at Ridley’s production on his own compared to what it was with Jones, an analysis that showed an increase in average targets per game. Even with games still left to be played, Ted Nguyen said that stat alone seemed to suggest that Ridley could be a legitimate No. 1 receiver on his own.

“While Ridley doesn’t have the size of a prototypical No. 1 receiver,” Nguyen wrote, “he fits the mold of the modern No. 1, who is expected to have explosion and run sudden and sharp routes like the Bills’ Stefon Diggs.

With 2020 as the base point, we can project Ridley will benefit without Jones at this point in his career. That probably wasn’t the case in years prior, when Ridley was new to the league and Jones was healthy and producing some of his best career numbers.

And with a natural progression, it brings us to the natural conclusion: Even in Jones’ shadow, Ridley found a way to shine. Now, he can do it on his own.

“Honestly, Julio is one of the greatest receivers to ever play football and come through Atlanta. I just feel like I have to keep it high,” Ridley said. “That’s one of my goals: To keep the standard here high. That goes for all the guys in my room. We want to keep the standard high like Julio and Roddy White and a bunch of other guys have done coming through here. That’s my goal.

“My group, we lost a big piece. Everybody’s thinking we can’t get the job done. … I feel like we’re going to put something together. … I just believe in us.”

 

 

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Ridley has already taken the role of best WR on the Falcons team. Last year Ridley out played JJ by a long shot. So all he needs to do is continue his great playing , like he did in 2020.  And him being the great WR he already is will open the doors for Kyle Pitts.  Who IMO will be better than JJ simply because of the age difference ... Now.. Let me just say I believe Pitts will have a much better Yards per touch than JJ this coming season. 

 

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I don't like the way this article is titled. Calvin Ridley will not be taking Julio's role. No one is taking Julio's role. That's not to say Calvin Ridley isn't great and all and isn't worthy of being the #1 receiver. I believe he is worthy of that.

But the offense isn't going to live and die with Ridley like we saw with Julio these last 7 or 8 years when Julio was the main man and the offense disappeared when he wasn't on the field. That's a good thing. This offense will be designed in a way that next man up works and we shouldn't miss a beat. That's not to say you don't need talented players, but it's the entire sum of all the pieces that will make the offense work, not just one or two guys. Great offenses aren't built around one guy. They've got multiple ways. Julio isn't the reason the Falcons offense was dynamic in 2016. The Falcons offense was dynamic in 2016 because we had so many different guys that the defense couldn't contain all of them. Matt Ryan threw a TD pass to 13 different guys that year. That is what we're aiming for under Arthur Smith. Everyone will play a part in this offense.

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On 6/18/2021 at 2:21 AM, AUTiger7222 said:

I don't like the way this article is titled. Calvin Ridley will not be taking Julio's role. No one is taking Julio's role. That's not to say Calvin Ridley isn't great and all and isn't worthy of being the #1 receiver. I believe he is worthy of that.

But the offense isn't going to live and die with Ridley like we saw with Julio these last 7 or 8 years when Julio was the main man and the offense disappeared when he wasn't on the field. That's a good thing. This offense will be designed in a way that next man up works and we shouldn't miss a beat. That's not to say you don't need talented players, but it's the entire sum of all the pieces that will make the offense work, not just one or two guys. Great offenses aren't built around one guy. They've got multiple ways. Julio isn't the reason the Falcons offense was dynamic in 2016. The Falcons offense was dynamic in 2016 because we had so many different guys that the defense couldn't contain all of them. Matt Ryan threw a TD pass to 13 different guys that year. That is what we're aiming for under Arthur Smith. Everyone will play a part in this offense.

but you know whenever the offense struggles thats going to be the narrative because julio isnt here we cant move the ball and all that

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On 6/18/2021 at 2:21 AM, AUTiger7222 said:

I don't like the way this article is titled.

They base the entire article on a false premise, a false framing of the situation.  
 

The actual situation is Calvin Ridley is now the Falcons #1 WR.  you could even toss in there he’s earned it.

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