Filling the Hole Left by Calvin Ridley
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Filling the Hole Left by Calvin Ridley

The Atlanta Falcons face many challenges coming into the 2022 season. For the first time since 2007, the Falcons enter without the certainty of having quarterback Matt Ryan under centre. While the quarterback battle between Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder will suck up a lot of the time in the media, how the Falcons will fill the void left by Calvin Ridley is essential.

The Falcons wide receiver will have to miss the entire 2022 season due to wagering on sports while he was injured in Florida. Pro athletes can’t bet on Super Bowl lines as the average fan would. They have ethics clauses built into their contracts to help protect the integrity of the game. Now that some minicamps have taken place, there is a better idea of the team is thinking.

Atlanta’s offence had a tough time last season, finishing -146 in point differential. The Falcons also had the fourth-fewest yards per game, only averaging 303.8 per contest. Here’s a look at who may be catching passes for Atlanta this fall.

Rookie on the scene

Atlanta’s first-round pick, former Southern Cal standout Drake London, is listed as the team’s No. 1 receiver on the depth chart. London, a 6’4”, 213-pound rookie wide receiver, caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns. He hadn’t played since last October when he broke his ankle.

London played some of his best football at USC during his third season and is expected to contribute immediately for the Falcons. His size and ability should make him one of the top targets available.

Zacchaeus needs to step up.

Olamide Zaccheaus, a 24-year-old receiver out of Virginia, caught 53 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns last season. Zacchaeus has steadily improved since coming to Atlanta in 2019 and has seen his catches and yardage increase yearly. If he can continue that progression, he will be able to help the Falcons out in a big way.

Zacchaeus has shown people during the preseason that he is confident this group is headed in the right direction. He recently told media that he feels Atlanta is a playoff team and they have room for significant improvements.

The free agent looks to fit in.

Former Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Bryan Edwards is also listed as a potential starter for Atlanta. Edwards caught 34 passes for 571 yards and three touchdowns for a Raiders team that reached the postseason last year. The leap Edwards made was a big step forward from his first year in 2021 when he caught 11 passes for 193 yards.

Atlanta thought highly enough of Edwards to acquire him via trade. Las Vegas thought he was expendable after the Raiders reached former Green Bay standout wide receiver Davante Adams in a business, which massively improved Vegas’ Super Bowl odds.

Can Tate take a step forward?

Auden Tate, a fourth-year receiver out of Florida State, played sparingly in 2021. He caught three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown in seven games with the Bengals. Tate, who is currently listed as a possible No. 4 on the depth chart, didn’t have many eye-popping seasons numbers-wise for the Bengals, but he was buried on the depth chart.

Tate’s best season came in 2019 when he caught 40 passes for 575 yards and a touchdown. While a change of scenery may benefit Tate, he must make several improvements before being expected to help new quarterbacks pick things up in the passing game.

Don’t forget the tight ends.

Kyle Pitts was impressed as a rookie last season, hauling 68 passes for 1,026 yards. Where Atlanta will like to see him better utilized is in the RedZone. Pitts was only able to move in one touchdown pass last season.

Pitts has a 6’6” frame and weighs 246 pounds. The Falcons will want to put that to full advantage to take out their new quarterback and get the offence back on track.

While Atlanta isn’t a value play if you’re looking to bet on the Super Bowl, this team is headed in the right direction, and the Falcons should be contenders soon.

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