There’s no question that Calvin Ridley represents one of the team’s more intriguing potential options as a returner, given his speed, elusiveness, and quality hands. There is a question of whether the Falcons will expose Ridley, who is expected to be a significant part of the team’s passing attack, to returner duties when they were so reluctant to do so with Taylor Gabriel.
Time will certainly tell the tale here, as it always does, but the Falcons are giving Ridley an early look at both returner spots in rookie minicamp. The team has trotted out the likes of Andre Roberts and Eric Weems in recent years, with decidedly mixed results, but figure to stay inside the organization this time around and go with a younger player. Ridley would be an intriguing choice.
Ultimately, Ridley is expected to compete with the likes of (deep breath) Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall, Reggie Davis, Russell Gage, Ito Smith and potentially Isaiah Oliver, and there is no obvious early favorite for either kick or punt returner, to say nothing of both. It’s worth noting that both Hall and Davis had their moments are returners in preseason a year ago, so while they would appear to be on the outside looking in with the additions of Ridley and Gage, their aptitude as returners could keep one of them around.
The team would be wise to make this an honest competition, ruling no one out because of their roles on offense or defense, and try to juice a sometimes ragged return game alongside the rest of their special teams in 2018. Expect Ridley, the team’s presumptive third receiver, to be very much in the mix the rest of the summer.