The Atlanta Falcons recently saw one of their marquee franchise players, Quintorrus Lopez “Julio” Jones, leave the organization in a trade with the Tennessee Titans.
After a 10-year career that saw four playoff appearances, a conference championship, and a Super Bowl appearance, Atlanta Falcons now turns the page from their first great Alabama wide receiver to don the red and black to the next: Calvin Ridley.
The question here is simple: is Ridley truly ready to fill those illustrious cleats of the Jet? And is he really already a top-five wide receiver in the game like James Jones alluded to on NFL Network?
To answer the latter part of that question, it’s not even a debate.
Falcons fans can admit this much: going from Julio to Ridley, while still providing a sting, is definitely not what Jones previously stated on live television. In fairness, if Jones said Ridley was a top-10 receiver in the game, perhaps there’s more of a debate to be had.
That said, Jones did state his case, and while it’s valid, Falcons fans know the truth there.
Ridley’s not a top-five receiver in the league yet, especially when the usual top-three includes the man Atlanta just got rid of.
After Julio, DeAndre Hopkins, and Davante Adams, it’s more plausible to put guys like Odell Beckham and Mike Evans to round out that category, and the truth here is that the Atlanta Falcons and the fans have yet to truly see if Ridley can be a number one option.
Atlanta Falcons will benefit from Calvin’s 2020 season moving forward
This leads to the answer to the first part of the previously stated question. Ridley’s clearly ready for the opportunity to replace the man who broke Roddy White’s record for franchise receiving yards, and it was evidenced last season.
While the team did struggle to a 4-12 record, anyone with eyes can’t say the Falcons offense was the problem.
In fact, some people have been on record basically comparing Julio going from the Falcons to the team in the opposite conference’s division where the similarities are pretty interesting: a high-powered offense, a young up-and-coming receiver, a quarterback who really never gets proper respect, and a defense which is massively suspect at the most inopportune of times.
Sound familiar, Falcons fans?
Getting back to Ridley, even in the lost season of 2020, the young man did lead the NFL in 20 or more yards catches with 16 and also went half the season with at least 100 yards receiving in a game.
Also worth mentioning: five of those games occurred without Julio, meaning Ridley was the number one receiver on the depth chart, therefore receiving more of the double teams.
Now, it’s worth noting that the last time a major wide receiver left their team and people questioned the ability to be a true number one was in Pittsburgh with Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster.
While the circumstances are similar with the Atlanta Falcons, there’s a huge difference here: whether it was with or without Julio, Ridley’s proven himself to be a formidable target outside the numbers, and his route running ability is just about as fluid as anyone currently in the league.
However, the 2021 season will be the real test of his ability.
Much like team brass, who have picked up his fifth-year option, Falcons fans will be watching with a little more scrutiny to see if “SlideRiddd” will be a great transition from the “Jet”.