Wide receiver Calvin Ridley is poised to become a playmaker for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2023 but Alex Kay of Bleacher Report isn't nearly as high on him as other NFL analysts and believes he won't produce like a star next season.
Kay drew up a list of players who won't put up elite numbers in 2023 despite the fact that they'll have a featured role. Ridley is among those who make the cut because Kay believes he might have a hard time recreating his 2020 product and highlights the fact that he was less than stellar in five games in 2021 before stepping away from football.
"Ridley may end up faring relatively well in this system, but it'll be tough for him to match the type of numbers that he posted during his Second-Team All-Pro season in 2020. It'll take him a bit of time to knock the rust off too following such a long layoff, so don't expect him to come out of the gate red-hot in 2023. "
Kay also argues that Ridley might not be able to recreate past production because he will have to share targets with fellow wideouts Christian Kirk, and tight end Jones. Add tight end Evan Engram to the equation and there might not be enough footballs to feed everyone.
A first-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2018, Ridley registered pretty good numbers despite the fact that he played second fiddle to Julio Jones, who was still at the top of his game. But in his first three seasons, Ridley showed he was a legitimate option in the passing game, hauling in 217 catches for 3,061 yards with 26 touchdowns.
Ridley did experience a dropoff in 2021. That year, he only appeared in five games and tallied 31 receptions for 281 yards and two trips to the end zone. However, he's since made it known that he was playing with a broken foot and was dealing with a lot of non-football related issues, which pushed him to make the decision to retire.
Jaguars WR Calvin Ridley is in a position to return to greatness in 2023
It's true that Ridley hasn't suited up for a game since 2021 but he hasn't spent the last two years watching re-runs of Desperate Housewives and churning out Hot Cheetos from the commodity of his couch. He took the time to work on his mental health and get better and he's been grinding since before he was reinstated to play.
Sure, practicing doesn't equal playing on the football field but it isn't as if Ridley suddenly forgot how to play. In fact, you could make the case that his time away from the field re-energized him and should help him succeed in 2023. Have something you really like been taken away from you?
That's the way Ridley must have felt when he was suspended for betting on football games but he's publicly talked about his drive to return to greatness and reclaim his place as one of the top wideouts in the NFL.
Also, having to share the field with Jones and Kirk doesn't mean he'll have fewer opportunities to make plays. Quite the contrary. Opposing defenses won't be able to zero in on any of them and Ridley's ability to stretch the field should help Kirk and Jones get favorable matchups. Similarly, Ridley's arrival will allow Kirk to line up in the slot, which should lead to opportunities for both of them.
It's always possible that Ridley may not live up to expectations in 2023 but isn't that true for most players? In fact, there's a greater chance he'll be for the Jacksonville Jaguars the player he was for the Falcons early in his NFL career.