Despite a lackluster season in 2018, the Atlanta Falcons have a lot to be thankful for: They’re three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, they’re worth more than $3 billion, and they have a wide receiver who once recorded 300 yards receiving in a game. Compared to other teams in the league, their situation is somewhat stable and in some cases, enviable.
The Falcons also have the scariest wide receiver tandem in the NFL. Let’s explore why.
Julio Jones career numbers
Along with recording one of the best single-game receiving performances in NFL history, Julio Jones is also the Falcons’ top receiver. Since being drafted sixth overall by the Falcons in 2011 out of Alabama, Jones has set the league on fire as one of its best receivers. Here are just a few of his career achievements thus far:
- 695 receptions
- 10,731 receiving yards
- 51 touchdowns
- 15.4 yards per reception
- Led the league in receptions (136) and receiving yards (1,871) in 2015
- Led the league in receptions per game three times: 2015, 2016, and 2018 with totals of 116.9, 100.6, and 104.8, respectively
- Six Pro Bowl selections
- Two first-team All-Pro selections
Pro Football Reference compares players to similar players throughout their career based on their output. Jones compares favorably to Antonio Brown, Wes Welker, Sterling Sharpe, and Chad Johnson as well as Hall of Famers Lance Alworth and Bob Hayes.
It’s clear that Jones is on his way to a Hall of Fame career if he finishes as strong as he started. But he’s not the only threat on the outside for the Falcons.
Calvin Ridley’s career numbers
Like his teammate Jones, Calvin Ridley was also drafted out of the University of Alabama. The Falcons selected him with the 26th pick in 2018. He’s shown a lot of promise so far in his young career.
In his rookie year, he compiled the following stats and achievements:
- 64 receptions
- 821 yards receiving
- 12.8 yards per reception
- 51.3 yard per game
- 10 touchdowns
- He made the 2018 All-Rookie Team.
Calvin Ridley is looking to play even faster than he did during his incredible rookie season. Here’s a brief snippet from a piece in Pro Football Talk on Ridley’s expectations in his second season after offseason workouts:
“I thought I played fast last year, but I am definitely playing faster,” Ridley said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I understand exactly what the coaches want and what [quarterback] Matt [Ryan] wants. So, I feel a lot better.”
It’s clear that Ridley is looking to take the next step for the Atlanta Falcons in year two. Based on a strong start, it seems likely he’ll be able to do it. His coaches are equally optimistic. He’s drawn high praise both from Falcons head coach Dan Quinn as well as receivers coach Raheem Morris.
The reason the Atlanta Falcons have the NFL’s scariest wide receiver duo
The single reason the Atlanta Falcons have the scariest wide receiver tandem in the NFL is that the combined talents of Ridley and Jones have the potential to be better than any other one-two receiving punch in the league.
There are more talented receivers than Jones out there — Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown come to mind. But no other receiver is paired with a deep threat with the speed and potential of Ridley. With Ridley more comfortable with his surroundings and ready to play faster, it gives the Falcons the most dangerous receiving duo in the NFL. They combined for 18 touchdowns and 2,498 receiving yards last season.
Combine them with the steady hand of Matt Ryan at QB, and they may be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Jones has numbers to back up his stardom. Ridley has yet to prove himself as an elite wide receiver, but if early forecasts out of Falcons camp are any indication, Ridley is headed for the same stardom Jones has seen in the league since entering it.