Falcons welcome Calvin Ridley back into the offense

FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is easing back into the offense after missing the last game to tend to “personal matters.”

He practiced with the team Monday and Wednesday as the Falcons (2-3) prepare to face the Miami Dolphins (1-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

“He looked like he always (does),” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said Wednesday. “He works hard. Calvin is a good player.”

Ridley has caught 27 of 42 targets (64.2%) for 255 yards and one touchdown this season. The Falcons beat the Jets 27-20 in London on Oct. 10 without Ridley.

But they are eager for his return to the lineup.

“I thought he practiced well for us,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “He was out there flying around, which is always been the case for him. I mean he comes out and he plays with unbelievable energy and great speed. I thought he looked great.”

Ryan also is ready to welcome back wide receiver Russell Gage, who’s missed the past two games with an ankle injury he suffered in the victory over the New York Giants.

“It’s always tough when guys go down, there’s no question about that,” Ryan said. “You always like to have the full complement of players because they’re such talented guys.”

Reserve wide receivers Olamide Zaccheaus and Tajae Sharpe started for the Falcons against the Jets.

“They played tough,” Ryan said. “It’s a really good group that we have, an unselfish group of guys that all pull for each other, and you know that was the case with guys being out like Calvin and Russ.”

While the Falcons are expected to get back Ridley and Gage, right tackle Kaleb McGary was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday.

Jason Spriggs and Colby Gossett are competing for the start if McGary can’t pass the NFL protocols in time to face the Dolphins.

Spriggs, who’s 6-foot-6 and 301 pounds, was drafted in the second round (48th overall) by the Green Bay Packers in 2016 out of Indiana. He has played in 49 NFL games and made nine starts. He was with the Packers from 2016-18 and spent the entire 2019 on injured reserve with back and elbow issues. He played with the Bears in 2020 and appeared in eight games.

Spriggs has been active for all five games this season.

“We got a lot of confidence in Jason Spriggs,” Smith said. “He’s played a lot of big games. We’ll see how it looks this week in practice.”

The Falcons, who were the first NFL team to be fully vaccinated, are holding out hope that McGary can return.

“Of course there’s always a chance, who knows, with McGary,” Smith said. “In this league nothing should surprise you, but you’ve got to have contingency plans. It’s no different if you (had) a guy go down on Saturday. The next guy is going to go up, and sometimes you have to have a practice-squad standard elevation.”

Coming out of Indiana, Spriggs was considered an athletic prospect with potential to start in the NFL. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.94 seconds which was tops in the linemen group. He also lifted 225 pounds 31 times.

Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson traded up nine spots to land Spriggs. However, did not play well enough to establish himself as the replacement for Bryan Bulaga, and he eventually was released.

But the Falcons are ready to roll with Spriggs, if necessary.

“What he’s done is his history,” Smith said when asked if they were comfortable with Spriggs. “That’s why he’s here. He was evaluated in free agency. Obviously, David Ragone, Charles London were with him (in Chicago). Ted Monachino was with him. We liked what (we) saw on film. He’s played NFL games. He’s done a decent job at practice.”

Gossett, who’s 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds, was drafted in the sixth round (213th overall) by the Minnesota Vikings in 2018. He played at North Forsyth High and Appalachian State.

Gossett has played in five NFL games and made four starts with Arizona in 2018.

Gossett will have a chance, too,” Smith said. “We’ve got confidence in him. He’s gotten better every week. We’ll make the best decision on Saturday.”

After five games, the Falcons are only in the top half of the league (16th or higher) in one of the four key offensive stats. It’s a small sample size, but the Falcons rank 12th in net passing yards (254.6 per game), 22nd in points scored (21.0), 20th in total yards (345.6) and 24th in rushing (91.0 yards).

“(We’d) like to be doing everything better,” Smith admitted.

Ryan believes that progress has been made, but there’s a lot of work to complete.

“We’ve been getting better as the year has gone on, which is good,” Ryan said. “I think everybody’s getting more comfortable. I think when you look through five weeks, there’s a lot to clean up.”

Like Smith, Ryan didn’t want to focus on the rushing attack.

“(There are) a lot of things we can do better, and that’s encouraging,” Ryan said. “I think we’ll make those corrections as we move forward, but all in all, you know five games in, there’s been, you know, some good and some things that need to be cleaned up. That’s our task this week is to try and improve.”

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Atlanta Falcons Schedule

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons at Miami Dolphins, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m.