The day that Falcons fans never thought would come finally arrived. Julio Jones won’t play in a Falcons uniform having been shipped off to Nashville. Atlanta is completely relieved of his salary liabilities with a second-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick returned for their troubles. While any offense that loses Julio will take a massive step back, I don’t think that all hope is lost. Calvin Ridley is a bona fide star, and his supporting cast will elevate him even more.
Calvin Ridley without Julio Jones over the last two years:
Finished as a top-25 WR in weekly scoring in 7-of-8 games and got 9 or more targets in every outing.
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) June 6, 2021
.@CalvinRidley1’s drive phase is as good as it gets. Full throttle until the breakdown. Sell the go ball until you can’t sell anymore. 20-yard, deep out, broken down in 3 steps. pic.twitter.com/cSTW0NGnjr
— Receiver School (@ReceiverSchool) June 9, 2021
With Russell Gage, Hayden Hurst, and Kyle Pitts, Ridley should still be able to create plenty of opportunities with his smooth route running and football IQ. Calvin is the undisputed WR1 on this team, but he will have to perform how he has in the past without Jones consistently.
He undoubtedly has plenty of chemistry with Matt Ryan, which will be important after losing someone who dominated the league for almost ten seasons. I talked about how the Falcons could use Kyle Pitts on the boundary; his massive wingspan and catch radius should have a similar effect as having Jones on the field — drawing attention away from Ridley. Even if Pitts doesn’t provide that immediate impact, I fully expect Calvin Ridley to finish the 2021 NFL season in the top five for yards and catches. He may have been robbed of a Pro Bowl nod in 2020, but that won’t be the case in 2021.