MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Calvin Ridley started his route breaking to the right and then faced upfield again, slowing his speed for a beat before turning on the afterburners.
Then, just like that, the Falcons receiver was gone. He left his cover man in his wake, easily hauling a deep pass from Matt Ryan early in Wednesday's joint practice with the Miami Dolphins.
Ridley didn't do that to just anyone. Elite cornerback Xavien Howard got beat bad in that instance, which you can watch right here:
It also wasn't a singular event. It was a tone setter.
Ridley was awesome all day long, with several wow moments now expected of the Falcons’ true No. 1 receiver. He routinely beat Howard, including on a touchdown catch later in the practice.
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A solid Miami secondary featuring Howard and Byron Jones made some plays, but Falcons receivers won Wednesday's round 10-8 on the scorecard thanks in largely part to Ridley.
Kyle Pitts also made a nice touchdown grab against safety Eric Rowe, and was active most of the day. Russell Gage showed great timing with Ryan, Hayden Hurst made two nice catches at least and Tajae Sharpe is starting to earn trust by making plays every day.
The Falcons and Dolphins wrapped practice with a series of two-minute drills between their top units. The situation was set at a tie game with the offense needing at least a field goal to win it.
Ryan's No. 1 group cruised downfield but sputtered at the end – Pitts nearly hauled in a touchdown pass well defended by Rowe – and ended up with a Younghoe Koo field goal. Jarrett's defense stopped Miami around midfield – Dante Fowler’s third-down pressure was a drive killer -- and they didn't even get in range for a field-goal try.
AJ McCarron's second unit made quick work of their series, with a long touchdown strike to Juwan Green with a near-perfect pass down the left sideline.
"Overall, I thought it was a really good operation," Smith said. "You can't get enough of that work."
Grady Jarrett's "a real dude"
There's no sense in softening the language: The Falcons defensive front had an excellent day. They dominated the Dolphins offensive front. That's just a fact. Grady Jarrett was the defensive line's pacemaker, a driving force in the middle who makes everyone around him better.
We saw several Falcons get into the backfield during team drills, including Fowler a key moment, and Steven Means more than once during different periods. It's always tough to say exactly what would've been a sack when quarterbacks aren't hit or tackled, but we know for sure the Falcons brought pressure frequently by simply beating their man. That's a positive sign for a largely unheralded position group in search of greater pressure working under new coordinator Dean Pees.
That will come from all over, inside and out. While Fowler's an explosive presence, Jarrett's clearly the star here. He's both a productive individual and someone who has been a strong leader for a largely unheralded group.
"Grady's a real dude," Smith said. "And I mean that as the highest possible compliment. He comes out here and works, competes and gets better. He doesn't rest on anything that he has done in the past. He tries to prove it every year."
More practice news and notes
First-team LG Josh Andrews left practice with what was later explained as a cramp, though exchanging a starter in the middle of a series – Jalen Mayfield stepped in with the first team -- actually proved to be valuable to an offensive line that will inevitably be presented with similar situation during the regular season. Generally speaking, the left guard spot remains open. Mayfield and Drew Dalman are still vying for a starting position that Andrews simply hasn't secured. …Chris Williamson had a nice pass breakup early in this practice, showing athleticism and aggressiveness getting to the ball. … DL Marlon Davidson and CB Kendall Sheffield remain sidelined with undisclosed injuries, but both players made the trip to South Florida with the team. … EDGE Adetokunbo Ogundeji continues getting work with the first unit, even in 11-on-11 drills on Wednesday afternoon. … There were no fights or extra-curricular issues, "we didn't see a lot B.S. out here," as Smith put it, to distract from on-field work, as there often is during joint practices. … Dolphins receivers healthy enough to practice – several are hurt – had some strong moments against the Falcons secondary. Fabian Moreau got beat deep early in the practice, prompted a roar from the large crowd on hand. Jaylen Waddle, in particular, had a strong day, even in matchups with AJ Terrell.
The Atlanta Falcons are in Miami participating in joint practices with the Dolphins leading up to the second preseason game on Saturday.