With Julio Jones in Tennessee, there will be significantly more weight on Calvin Ridley's shoulders to help keep the Falcons' passing game afloat. Ridley recently underwent minor foot surgery from Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. While the surgery will keep him out of minicamp, Ridley is expected to be good to go by the start of training camp.
The 26th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Ridley caught 124 passes for 1,687 yards and 17 touchdowns during his first two seasons in Atlanta. He had his breakout season in 2020, catching 90 of 143 targets for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 15.3 yards per reception. Ridley had nearly 600 more receiving yards than Russell Gage, who finished the season as the Falcons' second-leading receiver. Jones, who missed seven games due to injury, finished just behind Gage with 771 receiving yards (compared to Gage's 786) during his final season in Atlanta.
With Jones gone, the Falcons' receiving corps will now be led by Ridley, Gage, Blake Christian, newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson and rookies Frank Darby and Kyle Pitts. Pitts, the fourth overall pick in the draft, has quickly impressed Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who is preparing for his first season without Jones since 2010.
"The thing that I've been impressed with for him is just his humility and his ability to want to work in the first couple of weeks," Ryan said of Pitts, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I think that's genuine. I would encourage him to stay that way because to me when you constantly trying to get better and improve, that's the way you get to where you want to go. He's certainly off to a good start."
The Falcons will have to defy the odds if they are going to finish above .500 for the first time since 2017. According to CBS Sports data scientist Stephen Oh, the Falcons' 2021 win projection has dipped from 8.9 to 8.5 wins following the trade of Jones. Atlanta's playoff odds have also fallen from 43.6% to 34.9%.