It’s only the offseason, but Falcons coach Dan Quinn singled out the work ethic of second-year wide receiver Calvin Ridley in a team meeting Thursday.
“He’s somebody that always does the hard things,” Quinn said after the open OTA workout Thursday. “He’s always down to compete. He’s always down to fight to get better.”
The Falcons keep track of players’ repetitions, yards and their workloads.
“When you look at it at the end of the day, he’s always there because he just loves to battle for it,” Quinn said. “I’ve always respected him as a ballplayer, but his toughness is legit because he brings it every time.”
The Falcons lay challenges out for players’ choosing, and Ridley always picks the toughest challenge.
“Easier route or the harder route, (he’s) going take the harder one every time,” Quinn said. “We really respect that a lot.”
Ridley works so hard that assistant head coach/wide receiver Raheem Morris has to get him to ease up at times.
“Calvin is a worker,” Morris said. “He goes extremely hard. You have to slow Calvin down. There are times where he’s going so hard, going so fast, but you have to say, ‘Whoa, Calvin, let’s just do these things today. Let’s do this and focus on this today.’”
Maybe someone will tell Ridley later that it’s just an OTA workout and he can chill. But for now, he performs at only one speed.
“I feel pretty good,” Ridley said. “A lot better than last year. I know the offense really well, and I just feel more comfortable in the system.”
Ridley had a strong rookie season and was named to the Pro Football Writers Association’s all-rookie first-team.
“I thought I played fast last year, but I am definitely playing faster,” Ridley said. “I understand exactly what the coaches want and what (quarterback) Matt (Ryan) wants. So, I feel a lot better.”
Ridley wants to continue to improve.
“I definitely think I’m a really good receiver, and I can be really good in (the NFL),” Ridley said. “Obviously, help my team win games and put up some numbers. I just want to do good for me and the team. I definitely want to be playing at a high level. That’s the standard for me.”
Quinn believes that Ridley has improved his ability to attack passes in the air by watching veteran teammate Mohamed Sanu.
“On those crossing routes where you see the aggressiveness that he’s going to attack the ball,” Quinn said. “He’s not waiting on it to body-catch it. He is going to attack it with aggressive hands. I’ve really noticed it, and I’ve said what a difference that is for (him). I know he’s put in work on it.”
“That’s a really good comparison,” Morris said. “I never thought about Harrison. I was thinking about Antonio Brown last year.”
Now, the challenge for Ridley and the Falcons is to build on his good start.
“His knowledge has increased, and how to continue to increase his knowledge (will be key),” Morris said. “His ability to run, his ability to stop and his ability to absolutely own the passing game is how he’s going to get better.”
Ridley was hard on himself at times as a rookie.
“Last year, a lot of things were new,” Morris said. “ A lot of things were going fast for him. He was picking up as he went. He had a pretty productive season. I don’t see any way that he slows down.”
Ryan was impressed that Ridley was not satisfied with a strong rookie season.
“That’s why Calvin is going to be a great player,” Ryan said. “I thought he had a helluva season. He played extremely well for us. He came out and was productive for us. When he got his chances, he made plays.”
Ryan doesn’t get into the comparison business, but he can see that Ridley has a high ceiling.
“He has that mind-set, and he’s hungry,” Ryan said. “He wants to be a great player in this league.
“He’s worked extremely hard this offseason. He looks really good right now. I expect him to play really well.”
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