It’s been a forgettable season for the Atlanta Falcons. Hoping for a competitive year, the offense struggles to protect the football while the defense has been a doormat in a good amount of their games. However, in a season that seems all but lost, Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is showing to be a dangerous complement to Julio Jones in A-town with Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric backing up the claim. 

Ridley had quite the noteworthy debut season. He led all rookie receivers with 64 receptions, 821 yards, and ten touchdowns confirming what many scouts had suspected in the pre-draft process; Ridley was the most pro-ready wide receiver in the 2018 NFL draft. Atlanta made it clear that Ridley was the future at the number 2 WR slot when they shipped Mohamed Sanu to the New England Patriots on October 23rd for a 2020 second-round draft pick. According to ESPN’s projected stats, Ridley is on pace to have just under 1,000 receiving yards on the season in just his second year. 

During Ridley’s rookie campaign in 2018, both he and Sanu surpassed 800 receiving yards, totaling 821 and 838, respectively. Sanu barely edged out Ridley in both targets and receptions by two in each. However, Ridley had a higher offensive share metric, scoring a 37.24 for the entire 2018 season, WR 15, compared to Sanu’s 36.89.

Work to be done

With a roster that needs some building, it allowed Atlanta to move on from Sanu in a season that is lost with some other changes, such as coaching, possibly coming down the pipe from owner Arthur Blank. 

While the passing game has excelled this year the rushing attack has been nonexistent. The Falcons are averaging 74.5 yards per game which is good for 3rd worst in the NFL this season. Devonta Freeman has not been himself this year, and the guys behind him are a patchwork at best. The offense hasn’t received much support from the defense either as the Falcons are surrendering 26.2 points per game. 

However, the past two weeks have been a glimpse of everything going right for Atlanta. Two divisional wins on the road, and it was no contest. In Week 10, the Falcons defense was a menace, and quarterback Matt Ryan was able to lead Atlanta to the win over the New Orleans Saints 26-9.

Week 11 was another dominant performance as the defense held the Carolina Panthers to 3 points. The passing game was also clicking, and Ridley had quite the day. He earned an OSM score of 42.3, giving him the fourth-highest rating of wide receivers in Week 11. It was his highest score and first elite performance of the season, according to OSM. 

Ridley’s Big Day

Week 11 was the best week of Ridley’s season so far. He was perfect reeling in every target from Ryan, eight receptions for 143 yards and finding the end zone once against the Panthers. His perfect day was a significant contributor to his Week 11 OSM grade of 42.3. 

He was tied for the third-most receptions among pass-catchers, and six players posted a perfect day completion percentage-wise, of those six, Ridley was the highest with three more receptions than the rest of the group. 

Ridley’s superb route running is a trait that scouts highlighted in the pre-draft process from his time with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Ridley routinely stretches the field for the Falcons and gives the Falcons a pair of dominant, tall receivers in Ridley and Jones to use as a one-two punch. 

When Jones is commanding more attention, it gives Ridley the chance to have a big game. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, on average, Ridley was 16.1 yards down the field per target against the Panthers in Week 11. Ridley had just two of his eight receptions go for less than 10 yards and found space in Carolina’s secondary to have three receptions of 30 yards or more. 

Photo Credit: NFL’s Next Gen Stats

That receiving chart paints a very intriguing picture. There are very few yards after the catch for Ridley besides his reception along the line of scrimmage.  Ridley’s excellent route running allowed him to find holes in the Panthers defense and convert targets for some significant gains. 

Even better news for the Falcons was that Julio had a big game as well. Meaning that if the team is clicking and the ball is flying in the passing game, the Falcons can rest easy knowing they have one of the best wide receiver duos in the league on the field putting on a show.