Rookie wide receivers Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore are looking for their first NFL receptions as the Panthers (1-0) are set to play the Falcons (0-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Two picks before the Falcons selected Ridley, the Panthers tabbed Moore, who played at Maryland.
“Both of them had real speed to go,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Friday. “The common trait … both of these guys were like real dog competitors.”
Both rookies were expected to add some punch to the respective team’s offensive attacks.
Ridley played 46 of 70 offensive snaps (66 percent) in the season-opening 18-12 loss to the Eagles on Sept. 6. He was targeted on two plays, but didn’t have a catch.
“I wished we’d gotten him a little bit more involved,” Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. “Games go certain ways…I wasn’t envisioning them not doubling Julio (Jones) the whole game, until the last couple of snaps of the game there.”
Jones had a dynamic performance of 10 catches for 169 yards against the Eagles. He also had a potential 52-yard gain ruled incomplete.
The Falcons want to have run-pass balance in their offense. They also would for passes to be better distributed to the weapons.
“Getting Calvin a little bit more involved will help everybody in the offense,” Sarkisian said. “So, we have to find those (opportunities) for him.”
The Falcons don’t plan to lean on Ridley more simply because running back Devonta Freeman will not play Sunday.
“Every game, he should be a factor not just because Freeman is going to miss this one,” Quinn said. “He’s got speed. Explosiveness. For sure, we are anticipating him being a bigger part of the offense. Not just in anybody else’s absence just because of the playmaker that he is.”
Moore played 17 of 67 offensive snaps (25 percent). He was not targeted while in the game.
“I’m feeling good about myself,” Ridley said. “I’m feeling good about the game plan. Last week, I didn’t get a catch or anything, but it doesn’t matter. I’m out there working, still getting open. Doing my best to help the team.”
Ridley, who played at Alabama, is glad that first game is under his belt.
“It was just a different feeling than the (exhibition) season,” Ridley said. “It was a lot faster. Now, I know what it feels like and how fast some guys are going to be going and what it takes to get open.”
The Falcons believe that Ridley will take on a bigger role as the season progresses..
“He’s going to be a part of what we do as we move forward,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “He did some good things in the game the other night. The ball just didn’t find him because of what we were running.”
The Eagles played man coverage against Jones a lot, and Ryan likes that matchup. He tossed 19 passes toward Jones in that scenario.
“Two things, one we are going to continue to take our chances to Julio when he gets singled up,” Ryan said. “And two, Calvin did a lot of nice things in the game the other night. The ball is going to find him throughout the year. He’s going to do a great job for us.”
Jones, who also played at Alabama, believes Ridley will be ready when the ball does come his way.
“Calvin is in a great space,” Jones said. “He’s a young player. He’s going to come in and find his way. He played at the University of Alabama, he knows what it takes to win.”
Ridley, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, is a deep threat. However, the Falcons didn’t have much time to throw many deep passes against the Eagles.
The line gave up four sacks and 13 quarterback hits.
“We just have to play efficient football,” Ridley said. “Being efficient. We just have to run our plays and move the ball well, we’ll be all right.”
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