Atlanta Falcons

Falcons, Matt Ryan need Calvin Ridley to catch on quickly

Plenty of Falcons deserve blame for their team’s opening night loss to Philadelphia, but Calvin Ridley really needs to give Atlanta a lot more.

When the Falcons spent a first round pick on Calvin Ridley back in April they assumed he could help take a lot of stress off of Julio Jones. Those hopes didn’t come true on Thursday night. Ridley’s inability to produce for the Falcons offense was a big reason Atlanta struggled to move the football against the Eagles.

Ridley was on the field for a lot of snaps, but he was completely anonymous. The former Alabama wideout was targeted on two occasions by Matt Ryan, but he failed to come down with a single catch. As a result, Jones was, again, forced to prop up the Falcons’ receiving corps all by himself.

It’s not as if the rookie wideout wasn’t on the field very often. He actually played in two-thirds of his team’s offensive snaps. The trouble is he wasn’t able to get open against NFL defensive backs. Ridley was never known as an electric athlete in college, but his polished route running allowed him to be a very productive player in Nick Saban’s offensive system.

It’s way too early to call him a flop, but it’s not too soon to start asking questions. If Ridley can’t start to progress pretty quickly, the Falcons are going to need to lessen his snap count significantly. Mohamed Sanu is ideally suited to play as a slot receiver, but he’s proven his ability to get open against quality cornerbacks. The Atlanta offense would have been better off in Philadelphia with Sanu as their second receiver as opposed to Ridley.

In fairness to Ridley, none of this will matter if Ryan doesn’t throw the ball better than he did on Thursday night. It was obvious to everyone that Ryan wasn’t able to push the ball down the field against the Eagles. Time and time again, the Pro Bowl signal caller failed to get the ball to his pass catchers on time. Ridley didn’t lose any potential catches due to Ryan’s throws, but he definitely didn’t get any help from his quarterback either.

Next: Falcons still don’t know how to use Julio Jones

Expect Dan Quinn and the Falcons’ coaching staff to make it a point to get Ridley more involved in the game plan this week. By playing on Thursday night the Falcons have extra time to prepare for next weekend’s game against the Panthers. Ridley will need to be an impact player in that matchup to get his team a big win. If he can’t show up against Carolina, then questions will really start to swirl about his ability to produce in the NFL.

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