FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Julio Jones has yet to make an appearance at the Falcons' voluntary organized team activities, but rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley has stepped up in his absence.
During the two-minute-drill portion of practice on Wednesday, quarterback Matt Ryan twice looked Ridley's way, and the rookie out of Alabama secured both passes to help the offense get into position to kick a field goal as time expired.
Yes, training camp has yet to even begin and catching two passes in a two-minute simulation in May is far different from making those grabs in November, but it's a start for the former Alabama star. Thus far, Ridley has proven capable of handling everything the Falcons have thrown at him on and off the field.
"Calvin, he's been excellent," Ryan said after practice. "Really talented, really smart, very detailed in his work and works extremely hard. He's a good addition for us."
"He's done a great job. What I've seen is excellent transition in and out of breaks, it's as good as anybody I've been around. He's got very good hands. He's smart, we put a lot on these guys early in OTAs as far as knowing different positions, knowing where to line up, different route combinations, adjustments that we have versus certain coverages. He's picked up all that stuff really well. You can tell he's been well coached prior to coming into the NFL."
Ridley's route running at Alabama helped him leave college defensive backs guessing, and it's a skill that he's shown on the field thus far during OTAs. One question mark draft analysts had in regard to Ridley was his ability to beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage.
While there hasn't been any contact yet between the offense and defense, Ridley's ability to create separation from his defender at the line of scrimmage has stood out to head coach Dan Quinn. "I'd say probably the thing that certainly jumps out is his ability to get off the line of scrimmage. It's his ability to create separation on a defender and go. This time of year, you don't see the bump-and-run but you do see guys playing at the line of scrimmage. I'd say those are the things I've seen; he's got a very high football IQ, for sure. We've thrown a lot at him and he's able to handle that."