FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – If you thought you saw it all of what Calvin Ridley can do in the Falcons’ offense in his first season, think again.
Ridley is coming off an impressive rookie campaign in which he led all rookie receivers in the NFL in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, tallying 64 catches for 821 yards (12.8 yards per catch) and a team-high and franchise rookie record 10 touchdowns. He set an NFL record during Weeks 2-4 with six receiving touchdowns, the most by a rookie in a team's first four games in league history.
The former first-round pick attacked the offseason with a number of areas in his game he wanted to get better at. At the top of the list was developing more of an “aggressive” approach to the way he catches the ball.
He leaned on his fellow receiver and one of the most physical players on the Falcons’ roster, Mohamed Sanu, to help him improve in this area. Sanu showed Ridley new drills to implement in his practice routine.
The two receivers spent a significant amount of time working out together this offseason.
“I feel like my hands have gotten a lot better – (more) aggressive,” Ridley said. “I’m really confident in my hands.”
Matt Ryan agreed with Ridley’s assessment of himself.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth,” Ryan said. “I think he’s worked really hard on getting stronger with his hands. He’s always had good hands but in this league, there are so many contested catches and he’s worked really hard on being stronger through the catch. You can see it.”
Another area Ridley feels he has improved in is his overall knowledge of the playbook.
One of the biggest adjustments Ridley had to make in his first season was learning he’s responsible for more than just running his route.
“When we have plays, you have to be in a certain spot,” Ridley said. “Last year, I didn’t know that – I knew the route, but I didn’t know where the ball was being thrown. Now, I know where the ball is being thrown. I know at the end of the route, I have to be in the spot. I didn’t know that last year, I would just run my route and be late to the spot or be early. Now I know it’s a timing thing, I have to be here at a certain time.”
Ryan is consistent at putting the ball in a certain spot and Ridley learned how important being in the right place is at the right time is to the enitre offense.
In Week 9 against the Redskins, Ridley said he ran to high on a route and Ryan was picked off because of it.
Ridley is the first to own up to his mistakes and learn from them. And his quarterback has seen it firsthand.
“I also think he’s just so much more comfortable in the system,” Ryan said of Ridley. “He has a much better feel for what we’re asking him to do, how to set up his routes, how to run his routes. There’s less mental stress of knowing where to line up, all of that stuff allows you to play faster and we’ve seen that from him throughout the offseason and the first couple of days of training camp
Emphasizing the fundamentals of the game for his second year of camp. Here are the best photos of Falcons' receiver Calvin Ridley