Let me start with this: I’m not a huge fan of the prospect of Calvin Ridley returning kickoffs, but damn if he didn’t look like the role suited him to begin the game. Ridley secured Harrison Butker’s opening kick and brought it back it 34 yards, showcasing his speed and elusiveness to give the Falcons promising starting field position. With the returner position still in a state of flux, the coaching staff is going to have to weigh the cost-benefit of having their future at wide receiver running headlong into an armada of defenders multiple times on gameday.
The return was only the opening act of The Calvin Ridley Show. He juked the hell out of Chiefs cornerback David Amerson, leaving him turned around, off-balance, and utterly hopeless to watch as Ridley hauled in a 36-yard bomb from quarterback Matt Ryan. This might have resulted in a touchdown if Ridley didn’t have to slow up a bit to bring it in — he’s fast to a fault.
The rookie wide receiver would continue his exemplary work in the second quarter with his first NFL (preseason) touchdown. The 7-yard reception from Matt Schaub was the result of a nifty little play that put Ridley in motion to the left side of the formation, running his route directly to the goal line. Hat tip to Steve Sarkisian for drawing up that wrinkle.
Ridley did not see much action in the first preseason game against the New York Jets, but he was the headliner here. He finished the day with 3 receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown. Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones on the field at the same time is going to be bonkers.
Ito Smith had a humdrum day at the office. The likely third running back carried 13 times for 34 yards, averaging 2.6 YPC. Smith converted a key third down in the second quarter, extending the drive that ultimately led to the Calvin Ridley touchdown.
He may have 86’d himself from the punt returner competition, as he muffed two in this one. We’ll see if he’s back there again next week.
The former LSU Tiger showed that he can be a valuable asset on offense, making a leaping grab on a slightly overthrown Matt Schaub pass. One reception for 18 yards for Russell Gage. Weapons, weapons everywhere.
The NFL learning curve can be steep and unrelenting, and cornerback Isaiah Oliver got his first bitter taste of how difficult adjusting to the game at the next level can be. He didn’t have a great night, to be frank. His main lowlight was failing to jam receiver Gehrig Dieter at the line of scrimmage and getting subsequently toasted for a touchdown as a result.
Oliver is a promising young corner and will get plenty of opportunities, but it was simply a bad game from him.
Senat was only in on eight snaps, but did show his awareness and ability to recover as he busted through the offensive line on a screen, tracked back to the football and was able to get in on the play.
With Deion Jones on the shelf, Oluokun was presented with a golden opportunity to start at middle linebacker. He opened some eyes in his first action last week, but didn’t jump out as much in this one.
With Duke Riley still looking somewhat lost at times, the former Golden Gopher’s stock continues to rise. Celestin recorded six solo tackles, building on his impressive first game. With Jonathan Celestin making the most of his reps and Foyesade Oluokun looking great in against the Jets, Atlanta has a couple of options at linebacker should Riley drop on the depth chart.