Falcons hoping for best with Calvin Ridley’s ankle injury

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley runs past Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Thompson during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley runs past Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Thompson during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Credit: AP

The Falcons may be without their leading receiver when they face the Denver Broncos at 1 p.m. Nov. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter of the 25-17 win over the Panthers on Thursday night and did not return to the game.

Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris didn’t want to give an update until he must release his official injury report Wednesday.

“You just feel so bad for guys,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “I know how hard Calvin has worked throughout the year and through the offseason. Hopefully, it’s nothing too, too serious, but we have other guys that are capable of doing it.”

Ridley was replaced in the lineup by Christian Blake, who had two catches for 14 yards. Ridley had four catches for 32 yards when he left.

Ridley leads the Falcons in receptions (43), yards (657) and touchdowns (six).

The injury came at time when Julio Jones was beginning to show signs of getting over the hamstring and hip injuries that he’s playing with. Jones had seven catches for 137 yards in the win over the Panthers. Jones has 38 catches for 584 yards and two touchdowns on the season.

“I thought Julio played really well for us (Thursday night),” Ryan said. “I don’t know how many catches or yards he had, but he had a bunch of explosives. Christian Blake did a nice job, had a few good catches for us, contested catches that we needed.”

Ryan appeared to count more on tight end Hayden Hurst, after Ridley left. Hurst had five catches for 54 yards, including a low pass he scooped up that was nearly on the turf.

“I think Hayden Hurst did a nice job as well,” Ryan said. “I thought it was a good effort by our guys to step up when Rid went down.”

Ridley missed the final three games last season with a stomach injury.

“We have a lot of confidence in Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus. Those are guys we know well and are guys that have been in our program for a while,” Morris said. “Guys that we’ve all had our hands on bringing in along with Russell Gage and some of the things he’s able to expand his game and do more.”

Morris was the wide receivers coach from 2016 to the middle of the 2019 season.

“We have all kinds of guys that can come in and just fill those roles for us and we feel good about those things and those moments when they happen,” Morris said. “In particular, we have (Brandon) Powell that fills his role with what he can do if Russell has to take another role, where B. Powell can play. He can go inside and Russell could go outside.”

Morris also pointed out that wide receivers Laquon Treadwell, Chris Rowland and Juwan Green are on the practice squad.

“We’ve got some guys on the practice squad that we could potentially flex that could do some things for us as well, so we feel good about our wide receiver position, particularly where it’s lead from Julio,” Morris said. “When it goes with Rid being the young guy, the young gunner. Then, those other guys coming in being able to play fast and really do some good things for us. It’s just been that way for a while here.”

On the depth chart, Jones, Ridley and Gage have specific backups. Blake is behind Ridley. Zaccheaus is behind Jones and Powell is behind Gage.

“I termed that phrase, that ‘clone factor’ within a game because it kind of gives you a chance to focus on something that you want to do,” Morris said. “Obviously, when you’re a backup in this league, you have to be ready to play every position and be able to go do whatever’s required that day, but when you have that clone-type mentality, when a guy walks on, a guy walks off, you know exactly what you want to do, and it gives you a better sense of how to practice, gives you a better sense of how to go.”

Ryan likes the wide-receiver shuttle system.

“It gives Matt Ryan a better sense of what that person may be doing when he is in the game,” Morris said. “Those guys can do multiple things, different things and they can move around a bunch, but our clone situation is what it is right now. We’re executing at a high level. I have a lot of confidence in what (wide receivers coach) Dave Brock is doing with teaching those guys.”

Falcons' Next four games

Broncos at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8

Bye Week

Falcons at Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

Las Vegas Raiders at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29

Saints at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6

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