For the past decade the Atlanta Falcons ran through two players: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Well I hate to break it to Falcons fans but… Their times has passed. Technically they’re both superstars in their own rights, with Julio still regarded by many as the best receiver in the league (Although I’d rank him just outside my top 5 as of now) and Ryan still producing at an MVP level despite the win-loss record not reflecting it so much. The two have formed a formidable duo over the past decade, connecting for 60 touchdowns since 2011 while also have a Super Bowl appearance to their names.
But the Falcons have nothing to worry about at all as their future superstar player is already on their roster. He’s no other than former first round pick Calvin Ridley. Ridley’s recent ascension may be seen by many as him taking advantage of the fact that Julio missed half of last season with a lingering hamstring issue, however I firmly believe that Ridley was actually on track to have that kind of impactful season wether Julio was there or not. After all it was Ridley who popped the year off with 21 catches, 349 yards and four touchdowns in the first three weeks, before eventually capping the year with totals of 90 receptions for 1,374 yards and 9 touchdowns in what ended up being a tumultuous season for the Atlanta Falcons.
With Julio still playing at an extremely high level it’s important to note that causes most teams to double him, leaving Ridley one-on-one in most situations during games that Jones plays in. In 2021 the Falcons are going to need the 2020 version of Ridley to show up on the field and become the unquestioned best #2 receiver in the league and maybe he and Julio can become the next pair of teammates to both break the 1,000 yard mark in the same season. Also, many should note that next season is his final season of his rookie contract. Meaning that depending on how successful his 2021 season is he’ll enter next offseason demanding huge dollars in free agency, weather it comes from Atlanta or not.
After looking at the rest of the NFC South on paper only the Buccaneers seem to present a strong case for having a team that could actually lockdown a duo as explosive as Ridley and Jones present (I’d make a case for the Saints however rumors are circulating about Marshon Lattimore’s future in NOLA) and also Ridley’s more of a touchdown threat than Julio (Ridley’s scored 9 more TD’s than his counterpart upon entering the league) meaning that he’ll be the biggest catalyst for their success in the next season. Only one question remains now: Can be be stopped?