FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the biggest early surprise for the Falcons in 2018 as well as Calvin Ridley keeping his promises and learning from his teammates.
Injuries have forced the Falcons to rely on some younger players in key roles this season, but some young players earned a big role from the jump. Rookie receiver Calvin Ridley has thus far shown why the Falcons selected him with the first-round pick, and he was Brent Sobleski's choice as the team's biggest surprise early in the season in a piece for Bleacher Report.
"The rookie caught seven passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns against Atlanta's rival," Sobleski writes. "It's due, in part, to playing opposite Jones.
"The performance placed Ridley first among rookies with 210 receiving yards. But more importantly, he can make opposing defenses pay for rolling coverage towards Jones' side. The 6'1", 190-pound Ridley doesn't provide the same physical presence as Jones, but his route running makes him difficult to handle when facing single coverage.
"As such, Ridley is currently the Falcons' top touchdown-maker."
To read the rest of Sobleski's piece and see who else was named as the biggest surprises around the NFL, click here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
ESPN: Rookie Calvin Ridley is making his family and Falcons proud
Ridley has been playing well on the field, but as ESPN's Vaughn McClure reports, his favorite moment as a professional may have occurred far away from a football field. Fulfilling a promise to his mother, Ridley bought her a Cadillac Escalade and a new home.
"I was real happy because she was real happy," Ridley told McClure. "That's the goal: Give your mom the things she wants in life. She worked hard all of her life. It's time for me to pay her. Now's she looking for that house."
Ridley also discussed his practice routines and the habits he's learned from fellow teammates that have helped him achieve success early on. To read the resto of McClure's piece, click here.
Panthers.com: Panthers sign Eric Reid to one-year contract
The Carolina Panthers announced Thursday that they have signed safety Eric Reid to a one-year contract. The Pro Bowl safety was signed to fill a need the Panthers had at the position after losing Da'Norris Searcy to injured reserve.
"Eric has been a starting safety in the NFL and has played at a high level throughout his career," general manager Marty Hurney said. "After we put (safety) Da'Norris Searcy on injured reserve, Ron (Rivera) and I discussed our options, and Eric was at the top of our list. He is a physical safety with good ball skills and play-making ability."
AJC: Manuel demands better tackling from the defense
The Falcons did not provide a lesson in proper tackling against the Saints, and it certainly factored into the lost. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel was not pleased with his unit's performance in that aspect of the game, which he made clear to the media on Wednesday.
"Tackling is effort," Manuel said. "It's you versus the other guy. You have to want to. I think, just from that standpoint, there were a lot of finishing opportunities out there for us to capture and we didn't."
D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote in greater detail about the Falcons' tackling woes and their effort to clean that up, which you can read here.