The Falcons made an enormous transfer Sunday after they agreed to commerce receiver Julio Jones to the Titans for a package deal highlighted by a second-round draft decide. Jones had been Atlanta’s No. 1 receiver for the higher a part of the previous decade, however now the workforce has a brand new No. 1 receiver on the depth chart.
That is Calvin Ridley. The 2018 first-round draft pick of Alabama is ready to be the highest receiving weapon for Matt Ryan and the Falcons in ’21. Rookie Kyle Pitts, the No. 4 general decide within the 2021 NFL Draft, will likely be there to assist on the tight finish spot whereas Russell Gage confirmed promise out huge final yr.
However, in the end, a bulk of the strain to supply and assist exchange Jones will fall on Ridley.
Is Ridley able to be the Falcons’ prime receiver? It is a query value asking. He has been Jones’ prime lieutenant and a productive receiver in his personal proper by three NFL seasons, however transitions to the No. 1 spot aren’t at all times simple.
This is Ridley’s outlook in his new position and whether or not he can keep away from the pitfalls of what has been, for some, a troublesome transition.
How Calvin Ridley has carried out with and with out Julio Jones
We even have a reasonably good pattern dimension of Ridley’s manufacturing with out Jones. Over the previous two seasons, Jones has missed eight video games. So in these contests, Ridley served as the highest receiving risk for the Falcons.
Typically, Ridley was good as the highest receiver. He averaged greater than 100 receiving yards per recreation whereas absorbing extra targets than any of Ryan’s different pass-catchers.
As anticipated, Ridley’s goal share elevated when Jones was off the sphere, and so did his general manufacturing. When evaluating Ridley’s performances with out Jones to the final eight video games during which each he and Jones performed at the least 50 p.c of the offensive snaps, it is clear that Ridley can nonetheless thrive with out Jones.
|Calvin Ridley Stats||Targets||Catches||Receiving Yards||TDs|
|With Julio Jones||9.1||6.4||97.6||1.1|
|With out Julio Jones||11.1||7.3||107||0.4|
Positive, Ridley’s landing manufacturing drops considerably with out Jones, however that is partly as a result of groups had been capable of guard Ridley extra intently within the crimson zone when Jones was out of motion. Including two targets, a catch and 10 yards to his weekly stat line helps to make up for that.
In fact, it’s value noting that Ridley put up a goose egg towards the Packers final yr in a recreation that Jones left early. Nevertheless, that is much less about Ridley’s efficiency than it’s about a terrific outing from Jaire Alexander, who took pleasure in his efforts towards the younger Falcons receiver in an Instagram story.
Possibly groups will recreation plan towards him extra, however Ridley appears poised to function a high quality No. 1 receiver.
Is JuJu Smith-Schuster a cautionary story for Ridley’s future?
Ridley’s state of affairs is considerably paying homage to the Steelers transferring on from Antonio Brown and entrusting JuJu Smith-Schuster as their No. 1 receiver.
After Brown requested a commerce away from the Steelers, they obliged by sending the previous All-Professional to the Raiders to function a prime goal for Derek Carr. In flip, Smith-Schuster would step in to the No. 1 receiver position for Pittsburgh. After a season that noticed him put up 111 catches, 1,426 yards and 7 TDs, many assumed he was able to be the highest receiver for the Steelers.
Nevertheless, Smith-Schuster did not fairly dwell as much as the billing. Granted, an harm to Ben Roethlisberger drastically diminished his probabilities of contributing in 2019, however he solely racked up 42 catches, 552 yards and three scores in 12 video games for the Steelers.
Even accounting for the unstable quarterback state of affairs, it was a disappointing yr for Smith-Schuster, who did not look fairly as explosive as he had in earlier years. He was injured for a part of the season, however early on he had his share of points going up towards prime cornerbacks who beforehand would’ve lined Brown.
Smith-Schuster was higher in 2020 — he had 97 catches, 831 yards and a career-high 9 TDs — however there are nonetheless questions on whether or not he is a real No. 1 receiver (although he was, as soon as once more, damage by a foul quarterbacking state of affairs and averaged a career-low 8.6 yards per catch because of this). These questions are a part of the explanation he returned to Pittsbrugh on a one-year deal as an alternative of touchdown a multi-year deal in free company.
May Ridley see a Smith-Schuster like decline together with his All-Professional counterpart gone? Maybe, nevertheless it would not appear as possible. Ridley has extra expertise with out Jones than Smith-Schuster did with out Brown. The truth is, Ridley has extra expertise usually, as he’ll grow to be the No. 1 receiver getting into his fourth profession season. Smith-Schuster took on that problem in his third yr.
Additionally, Ridley’s a greater athlete than the Steelers star, and Matt Ryan is best at this stage of his profession than Roethlisberger was in ’19 for the Steelers. Each of these components ought to give Ridley a greater probability to keep away from slumping in his first yr as a No. 1 goal.
As such, Ridley ought to have the ability to proceed on an upward trajectory. Or on the very least, he should not decline in 2021 — supplied that he and Ryan can keep wholesome.