The Atlanta Falcons have a wide receiver duo that is bringing much attention to the offensive side of the ball. Five-time Pro Bowler, Julio Jones will team up with the rookie Calvin Ridley starting this season.
In 2011, the Falcons used their first-round pick on Jones, the wide receiver out of the University of Alabama. Seven years later, the Falcons picked another top receiver from the Crimson Tide. Drafting Ridley in the 2018 NFL Draft as the 26th overall pick.
The relationship and connection between the two players seemed undeniable to Falcons fans because of their college football careers. While with the Crimson Tide, both receivers had similarly impressive careers. Jones caught 179 passes for 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns and Ridley caught 224 passes for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns before declaring for the draft after their third year at the university. Both rank top 5 in receptions and receiving yards in Alabama’s history.
Nick Saban is the coach that knows these two men the best by having the opportunity to coach both receivers at the University of Alabama. Saban has won 6 national championships at Alabama and both Jones and Ridley played huge roles on their roster in their respective years. Saban gave Falcons fans insight on what to expect from the two men while on the roster together.
“I think first of all their great people; they’re going to represent the organization in a first-class way,” Saban said. “I think they’ll both do a great job as competitors. It will be important to both of those guys to do the best they can and win in every opportunity they have. I think they’ll be good teammates, they’ll affect other people in a positive way. I think in professional sports, if you have people like that on your team, it’s a real plus.”
Ridley is shorter than Jones and according to Nick Saban much quicker than him.
Jones, who was absent for the optional offseason practices, returned to the mandatory minicamp and the public was able to see this duo on the field at the same time. Jones had the opportunity to workout with Ridley before he was drafted in April, but this was the first time they were able to work together as teammates. Both players confirmed the relationship many fans hoped for when seen on the field and asked in interviews after training camp.
“He knows everything.” Ridley said on Julio. “He’s like a coach. He coaches me on everything. Even if I do it right, he’s still going to coach me. It’s like having another coach on the field. He’s watching everything.”
Jones, in turn, spoke highly when reflecting on the first-round rookie.
“First-round guys, guys can be stuck in their own ways and things like that, but he comes to work.” Jones said. “I love his attitude and I love his work ethic and everything about him.”
The Falcons offense declined last season after coming off of a historic offensive year in 2016. The drafting of Ridley shows that there is a focus to get quality and quantity weapons for Matt Ryan to utilize. As of recently, when Julio is on the field he acquires double sometimes triple coverage. With the addition of Ridley, the hope is to draw some of that coverage away from Julio. The Alabama duo bring strong hands that will add to the other offensive threats such as Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, Devanta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The Falcons look forward to a high-power offense leading to another Super Bowl run.
The preseason starts on August 10, 2018 where the Falcons will go to the New York Jets.