Atlanta Falcons Lose Calvin Ridley, Opportunity For Young Players

Atlanta Falcons, Calvin Ridley (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Atlanta Falcons, Calvin Ridley (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

After the Atlanta Falcons big win on Sunday, news came that Calvin Ridley would miss the remainder of the season with an abdominal injury. With Ridley’s absence, the young wideouts on the roster will get a chance to shine in the last three games of the season.

Coming off a standout rookie season, Calvin Ridley didn’t take any steps back in his second season. Ridley led the Falcons in receiving touchdowns with seven. Also, he added 63 catches for 866 yards. Unfortunately, those numbers will not improve any further after Ridley announced he would miss the remainder of the season with an abdominal injury.

With three games left on the schedule, the Falcons won’t miss their star wideout too much but his absence will not go unnoticed. Luckily, for the Falcons, Julio Jones returned on Sunday to play in the Carolina game. However, with three meaningless games left on the schedule, Julio may take it easy going into the end of the season after dealing with some of his injuries throughout this season. Austin Hooper, another injured Falcons receiver, came back from injury over the weekend, but with free agency coming up, Hooper might not want to push himself too hard in the final three games.

With Jones and Hooper working their way back, the Falcons and Matt Ryan will have to seek other options when they want to toss the ball around. The guys behind Julio and Calvin Ridley are Russell Gage, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Justin Hardy. All four players have an opportunity to make their mark on the Falcons in the last part of the season.

Justin Hardy has been the de facto 3rd guy since Mo Sanu was traded to the New England Patriots. At least Hardy was until Russell Gage usurped his spot. Hardy has been a disappointment in his time with the Falcons. Unless Hardy really explodes in these next three games, these will likely be his last three games with the Falcons.

Russell Gage has continued to improve since being drafted last season. Now, the 3rd receiver for the Falcons, Gage can expect more targets and attention with Ridley being sidelined for the last three games. Gage is under contract for the next few seasons so these next three games can help Gage further solidify his place as the Falcons third option.

Christian Blake has been a primarily a special teams player this season. As a rookie, that’s not shocking. With Ridley being out, Blake will move up in the depth chart. For the season, Blake has 11 catches on 21 targets for 91 yards. Look for Blake to get some more looks in these last few games.

Olamide Zaccheaus was the star against the Panthers this Sunday. Zaccheaus, in his first NFL catch, caught a 93-yard touchdown pass. After a stellar career at the University of Virginia, it seems like Zaccheaus is finally getting a chance to make his impact on this Falcons team. Look out for the battle between Zaccheaus and Blake.

Losing Ridley is a blow, even with the Falcons season from hell. The season is lost but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still things to be learned from in these final three games. The Atlanta Falcons have plenty of young talent on the roster. Now, it’s time to find out who is the best of the best.