The Jacksonville Jaguars hit the football field last week for Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and one of the most anticipated offseason acquisitions finally hit the practice field in wide receiver Calvin Ridley.
The Jaguars actually acquired Ridley during the 2022 season prior to the end of the NFL Trade Deadline, but due to his indefinite suspension, he could not join the Jaguars until he was reinstated to the NFL back in March.
Ridley has not played a game of football in the NFL since October of 2021, so naturally the team is going to be easing him into getting back on the field. With the start of OTAs, the Jaguars are doing just that.
“He hasn’t played in a while plus the injury, so we’re just trying to be careful with him,” Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson told reporters after the first day. The injury Pederson is referring to is a broken foot that Ridley suffered in 2021.
“But he’s doing a great job. He’s picking up the offense well,” Pederson added. “The times that he’s working with Trevor [Lawrence] on the same page they’re connecting, and those are good things to see right now in the offseason.”
It’s smart for the Jaguars to slowly integrate Ridley given how much time he’s been gone, and if we’re being completely truthful, missing that much time out of the NFL is significant. Sure, Ridley likely kept himself in shape by working out on his own, but that is in no way comparable to the rigors of being in the NFL week in and week out.
All that being said, Ridley is going to be someone the Jaguars are going to have to lean on for impact on their offense to take it to the next level. Jacksonville’s offense scored points in bunches last season and will likely do so again this season, but Ridley will be the key to really unlocking things for the Jaguars.
Last season’s offense lacked consistent explosive plays. We’d get a few from Travis Etienne in the running game and a handful from Trevor Lawrence and Christian Kirk, but it was very clearly an area the Jaguars lacked, striking from outside the red zone and chunk offensive plays. Now, it’s not a bad thing that the Jaguars could still drive down the field and end up with seven points, but if they can add that explosive scoring threat to their offense, it takes it to a whole new level.
Last season the Jaguars had a total of 55 passing plays over 20 yards, with 18 of those coming from Kirk. Ridley during his time with the Atlanta Falcons had seasons of 11, 12, 23, and 3 in 2021 prior to his injury, all as the no. 2 receiver for the Falcons. The only other player the Jaguars had with double-digit passing plays over 20 yards was tight end Evan Engram.
Adding a player who brings the skillset Ridley does, given he quickly reacclimates to the speed of the NFL, adds a more explosive threat to the passing game and opens up everything else. Teams will no longer be able to cheat the line of scrimmage and force players like Zay Jones and others to win matchups but now will basically have to choose between daring Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk to beat them and stopping Travis Etienne, or trying to man up and stop Etienne and the running game while playing off.
While the expectations for Ridley should be tempered for the first handful of games and he gets back in the groove, by the end of the season they should be pretty high. He has the chance to unlock the explosiveness of the Jaguars' offense.